Thanksgiving dinners will cost an eye-popping 14% more this year, farm lobby says
Inflation is hitting Thanksgiving hard this year. A typical Thanksgiving dinner will cost an extra 14% this year, more than double the inflation rate for U.S. food prices.
A Thanksgiving feast for 10 people—including turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls, peas, cranberry sauce, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie and coffee—will average $53.31 this year, or about $6 per person, according to the 36th annual survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation. Last year, the same meal averaged $46.90.
The 14% increase actually outpaced the 5.3% year-over-year rise in overall food prices as of last month, according to the latest Consumer Price Index report. The prices of meat, poultry and fish have been soaring, increasing 11.9% over the past year.
“Taking turkey out of the basket of foods reveals a 6.6% price increase compared to last year, which tracks closely with the consumer price index for food and general inflation across the economy,” said Veronica Nigh, the Farm Bureau’ senior economist. She added, however, this year’s total meal price increase was the largest the Farm Bureau has seen in the history of the survey, which started in 1986.
Beyond inflation, several factors contributed to the higher Thanksgiving dinner costs, according to Nigh. That includes supply chain issues that have persisted over the last 20 months, as well as suppliers’ difficulty in predicting demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The trend of consumers cooking and eating at home more often due to the pandemic led to increased supermarket demand and higher retail food prices in 2020 and 2021, compared to pre-pandemic prices in 2019,” Nigh said.
Nearly every aspect of the meal is pricier this year. A 16-pound turkey, which the Farm Bureau found averaged $23.99 this year, had the largest increase, up 24% year-over-year. That’s nearly three-times higher than the 8% to 9% that Credible’s Financial Analyst Daniel Roccato estimated Thanksgiving whole turkey prices would climb.
Many Americans may actually pay less for their turkey, especially if they purchased it within the two weeks leading up to the national holiday. The Farm Bureau’s annual cost calculation is based on over 200 surveys completed by shoppers from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. These shoppers, however, checked prices between Oct. 26 and Nov. 8, which is before many grocery stores began promotional pricing for Thanksgiving turkeys.
The early time frame hasn’t been a problem in the past, but due to the unpredictability of supply chains, grocery stores began to roll out their promotional prices for Thanksgiving whole turkey later than normal, according to USDA Agricultural Marketing Service data. The average cost of a whole frozen turkey was $1.07 per pound the week of Nov. 5. But it was just 88 cents per pound the week of Nov. 12—dropping by about 18% in just one week.
Typically, 60% to 90% of grocery stores have sale ads on turkey during the second and third weeks of November, a USDA official tells Fortune. Overall, spokesperson said the prices of traditional Thanksgiving ingredients such as turkey, sweet potatoes, potatoes, cranberries, green beans, and milk have only increased about 5% over the last year.
"We know that even small price increases can make a difference for family budgets, and we are taking every step we can to mitigate that. The good news is that the top turkey producers in the country are confident that everyone who wants a bird for their Thanksgiving dinner will be able to get one, and a large one will only cost $1 dollar more than last year,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Meanwhile, the Farm Bureau estimates frozen pie crusts are up 20% this year to $2.91, the second-largest price jump compared to other ingredients for the meal. The only item on the shopping list that declined in cost was the 14-ounce bag of cubed stuffing mix, which averaged $2.29, down 19% from 2020.
Prices have been trending higher for products that require multiple ingredients and more processing, like pie crusts, Nigh said. "There's significantly more workers, more processors [involved], so there's more areas and opportunity for there to be increases in price," Nigh says. "The more ingredients you have, the more opportunity for those suppliers to experience disruption in the last months."
Update (11/18/21): This article has been updated to include additional information from the USDA
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