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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Thanksgiving dinner costs have surged 14% from a year ago

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Americans hosting a traditional Thanksgiving feast of turkey with all the trimmings face grocery prices that are up 14% this year compared with the 2020 holiday, when grocers slashed costs to 10-year lows. 

Assuming 10 family members and friends are at the table, the usual holiday menu of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray and pumpkin pie with whipped cream — along with coffee and milk — will cost an average of $53.31, or just over five bucks a person, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual survey. That’s up $6.41 from the 2020 average of $46.90, which was 4% cheaper than in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Inflationary factors driving up food costs include supply-chain disruptions over the past 20 months and changes in how people eat during the pandemic, according to Veronica Nigh, the Farm Bureau’s senior economist.

“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 stated in a news release.

If you take turkey out of the equation, a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal would cost nearly 7% more than last year, an increase more closely aligned with general inflation across the U.S. economy, Nigh noted.

While the cost of food and pretty much everything else has increased over the past year, meat prices have seen an especially sharp climb, rising nearly 12% over the last year, according to government data. Since the coronavirus exploded last year, beef, pork and chicken prices are up roughly 26%, 19% and 15%, respectively, according to EconoFact, a nonpartisan publication that covers economic affairs. 

Turkey prices are up 24% from last year

According to the Farm Bureau’s volunteer shoppers, who reviewed grocery store prices between October 26 and November 8, the average 16-pound turkey goes for $23.99, or about $1.50 a pound — that’s up 24% from last year. 

Shoppers will likely pay less if they buy their frozen turkeys closer to next week’s holiday, as grocery chains are advertising lower promotional prices later than usual, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Through November 18, those prices were averaging 88 cents a pound, compared to $1.07 the week before, an 18% drop in just one week. 

Of the Farm Bureau’s list of a dozen Thanksgiving staples, all items cost more than last year, except for stuffing mix, with a 14-ounce bag averaging $2.29 — a drop of 19% from 2020. 

The AFBF’s cost breakdown comes amid expectations that family gatherings will be somewhat larger than last year, before COVID-19 vaccinations were available. 

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