The cost of a Thanksgiving meal increases for second year in a row

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving is a time for friends and families to gather and enjoy each other’s company around a table filled with food, but for some families the thought of spending a day enjoying food is just that, a thought.

The American Farm Bureau Federation announced recently that the price for a Thanksgiving dinner has gone up slightly this year despite a 13-percent decrease in the cost of turkey.

“Turkey production has been down some this year, so you might think that would contribute to a higher retail price,” AFBF Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson said. “But that’s really not what we’ve seen if you look at the last couple of months of information from USDA on turkey prices. Their retail prices have been lower. Wholesale turkey prices have been a little higher so what we may be seeing is retailers deciding to take a little lower margin to get people in the store.”

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The average cost of a Thanksgiving meal for a group of 10 has increased by 37 cents from $49.04 in 2013 to $49.41 for 2014.

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.

Although taking into account the decrease in the cost of Turkey, AFBF reported the cost increase for the meal was in part due to the rise in the cost of dairy products, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie mix.

According to AFBF’s research, sweet potatoes are averaging $3.56 for three pounds; a half pint of whipping cream is averaging $2.00; a gallon of whole milk, $3.76; and a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.12. AFBF also reported that a combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) rose to $3.48 for the grouping.

“A few things that did increase though were sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie mix was up a little bit and probably the items that were up more than anything else although still not a major move were the dairy-related products,” Anderson said. “We have whipping cream and whole milk in the survey and we also have miscellaneous items which includes butter.”

While the price of Thanksgiving as a whole has increased, the cost of a Thanksgiving meal per person costs less than $5 per serving, which Anderson says is incredibly affordable for today’s families.

“The cost of our Thanksgiving meal works out to less than $5 per serving,” Anderson said. “That’s incredibly affordable. To be able to provide a special holiday meal for your family really for less than the cost of a fast food meal is remarkable and it’s something that we shouldn’t take for granted.”

And still, while prices go up for some components of a Thanksgiving meal, Anderson said America’s farmers have continued to work hard to improve the way food is grown and keeping costs low for the average American family.

“America’s farmers and ranchers remain committed to continuously improving the way they grow food for our tables, both for everyday meals and special occasions like Thanksgiving dinner that many of us look forward to all year,” Anderson said. “We are blessed to be able to provide a special holiday meal for 10 people for about $5.00 per serving – less than the cost of most fast food meals.”

Other options AFBF recommends for busier families includes picking up ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, including all the trimmings, which should be available at many supermarkets or take-out restaurants with prices ranging anywhere from $50 to $75.

The AFBF first conducted the “Cost of Thanksgiving” meal survey in 1986, and still boasts the same survey menu since its conception to allow for consistent price comparisons. While the AFBF does not make any scientific claims about their data, it has been used as an informal price-trend gauge around the nation.