Cost of a classic Thanksgiving drops

Nov 22nd, 2016 | By | Category: Economic Indexes

By Sarah Glenn/For the Journal

thanksgiving graphic_1POCATELLO – As turkeys fill grocery store refrigerators and cans of cranberry sauce fly off the shelves, shoppers can expect the cost of their Thanksgiving dinner to be a few cents lower this year due to falling food prices.

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 31st annual Thanksgiving dinner informal price survey says that the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.87, a 24-cent decrease from last year’s average of $50.11.

While 24-cents won’t make or break most consumers, it does echo a larger trend in the food industry – prices are finally falling after for years of steady gains.

The big plunge this year was in the price of turkey. In the AFBF’s survey a 16-pound turkey came in at a total of $22.74 this year. That’s roughly $1.42 per pound, a decrease of 2 cents per pound, or a total of 30 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2015.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reduced its turkey price forecast for the current fourth quarter, saying “supplies of product are large.” Overall, the retail food category has experienced flat or lower prices much of this year, according to government data.

Foods showing the largest decreases this year in addition to turkey were pumpkin pie mix, milk and a veggie tray comprised of celery and carrots. A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.13; a gallon of milk, $3.17; a one-pound veggie tray of celery and carrots, $0.73; and a group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), $2.81.

“Consumers will pay less than $5 per person for a classic Thanksgiving dinner this year,” AFBF Director of Market Intelligence Dr. John Newton said. “We have seen farm prices for many foods – including turkeys – fall from the higher levels of recent years. This translates into lower retail prices for a number of items as we prepare for Thanksgiving and confirms that U.S. consumers benefit from an abundant, high-quality and affordable food supply.”

Items that increased modestly in price were a dozen brown-and-serve rolls, $2.46; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.59; one pound of green peas, $1.58; 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, $2.39; a half-pint of whipping cream, $2.00; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.67; and a three-pound bag of fresh sweet potatoes, $3.60.

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.

A total of 148 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 40 states for this year’s survey. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey.

The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home. According to the index, eating at home is about 2.3 percent cheaper this October compared to October 2015.

However, for those who chose a restaurant for their Thanksgiving feast this year, they can expect the bill to be slightly higher. Eating away from home actually increased, becoming 2.4 percent more expensive this year, the CPI report said.

“Restaurant prices are primarily comprised of labor and rental costs with only a small portion going toward food,” according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “For this reason, decreasing farm-level and wholesale food prices have had less of an impact on restaurant menu prices.”

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