Menu items for a classic Thanksgiving dinner including turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the basic trimmings increased about 1.3 percent in price this year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
AFBF’s 25th annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $43.47, a 56-cent price increase from last year’s average of $42.91. This year’s meal is actually $1.14 cheaper than what shoppers paid two years ago, when the total was $44.61.
“While this year’s meal remains a bargain, at less than $4.35 per person, America’s farmers and ranchers are perhaps most proud of the quality and variety of the food they produce for America’s dinner table,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Texas. “Our farm and ranch families are honored knowing that again this year Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering with their families around the traditional feast. It is fitting that the food we produce from our land is a focal point of our nation’s thankful celebration of its collective bounty.”
The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.
The big ticket item — a 16-pound turkey — was actually cheaper this year, at $17.66. That was roughly $1.10 per pound, actually a decrease of about 6 cents per pound, or a total of 99 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2009. While the whole bird was the biggest contributor to the final total, it was also the largest price decline compared to last year.
“Turkey prices are down some this year despite the fact that, according to Agriculture Department estimates, turkey production has been slightly lower in 2010 than in 2009 and supplies of turkey in cold storage are below last year’s level,” said John Anderson, an AFBF economist.
“This suggests that retailers are being fairly aggressive in featuring turkeys in special sales and promotions,” Anderson said. “Overall, the change in the price of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is basically in line with the modest changes that we’ve seen in the overall price level this year. At $4.35 per person, our traditional Thanksgiving feast is still a better deal than most fast-food value meals, plus it’s a wholesome, home cooked meal.”
A gallon of whole milk increased in price by 38 cents per gallon, to $3.24. Other items that showed a price increase from last year were: a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $2.62, up 17 cents; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.46, up 12 cents; one half pint of whipping cream, $1.70, up 15 cents; three pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.19, up 7 cents; a one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery, 77 cents, up 5 cents; a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.12, up 4 cents.
Have rebounded from 2009
“Some of the Thanksgiving dinner items have rebounded from quite low price levels in 2009,” Anderson said. “For example, last year’s milk price was at its lowest level since 2001. Dairy product prices have climbed some in 2010, largely reflecting better consumer demand as the economy has gradually improved this year.”
A combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter) also increased in price, to $3.22.
Joining the turkey as items that decreased in price this year were: one pound of green peas, $1.44, down 14 cents; and a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.64, down 1 cent.
Another of the traditional Thanksgiving items, fresh cranberries, was unchanged from last year, with a 12-ounce package selling for $2.41.
Anderson said despite retail price increases during the last year or so, American consumers have enjoyed relatively stable food costs over the years, particularly when adjusted for inflation.
The 1.3 percent increase in the national average cost reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the organization’s 2010 quarterly marketbasket food surveys and the federal government’s Consumer Price Index (available online at http://data.bls.gov/) .
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. Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75.
The AFBF survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation.
More than 112 volunteer shoppers from 34 states participated in this year’s survey. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.