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Survey shows Thanksgiving feast will be more expensive this year

This year’s Thanksgiving meal will be more expensive, with an average increase of 14% for US mainland consumers, a survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation showed.

The cost of many of the holiday’s staples — the turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, and dessert — have jumped, pushing the cost of a meal for 10 at $53.31, or less than $6 per person. This is a $6.41, or 14% more than last year’s average of $46.90, the nonprofit concluded.

This year’s national average cost was calculated using 218 surveys completed with pricing data from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. While there is no specific tally for what Puerto Rico consumers will spend — considering that different items are added to the list, such as rice, “pasteles” and other local staples — the receipt at the register is expected to jump.

Puerto Rico Farm Bureau Executive Director Vanessa Piñero said if considering just the increase in shipping prices, the cost of a container “has increased from $7,000 to $17,000 in five months.” That represents an 83% jump.

“All of the costs associated with feeding farm animals has increased, in some cases more than 25%,” she said, attributing the surge to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a shortage of labor, inflation and greater demand vs. a lower offer.

The centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables – the turkey – costs more than last year, at $23.99 for a 16-pound bird. That’s roughly $1.50 per pound, up 24% from last year, but there are several mitigating factors.

Farm Bureau “volunteer shoppers” checked prices Oct. 26 to Nov. 8, about two weeks before most grocery store chains began featuring whole frozen turkeys at sharply lower prices.

Although the survey timeline is consistent with past Thanksgiving surveys, 2021 brought some unique differences, the nonprofit stated.

According to USDA Agricultural Marketing Service data, grocery stores began advertising lower feature prices later than usual this year. Also, the average per-pound feature price for whole frozen turkeys was $1.07 the week of Nov. 5-11 and 88 cents the week of Nov. 12-18, a decline of 18% in one week.

This means consumers who have not yet purchased a turkey should be able to find one at a lower cost than the Farm Bureau average, it noted.

“Several factors contributed to the increase in average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” said American Farm Bureau Federation Senior Economist Veronica Nigh. “These include dramatic disruptions to the U.S. economy and supply chains over the last 20 months; inflationary pressure throughout the economy; difficulty in predicting demand during the COVID-19 pandemic and high global demand for food, particularly meat,” she explained.

“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,” she said.

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, 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.

“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 Nigh.

Acknowledging changes in Thanksgiving dinner traditions, the Farm Bureau price survey also includes ham, Russet potatoes, and frozen green beans, in an expanded holiday menu. Adding these foods to the classic Thanksgiving menu increased the overall cost by $15.41, to $68.72. This updated basket of foods also increased in price (up 14%) compared to 2020.

This year’s national average cost was calculated using 218 surveys completed with pricing data from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers checked prices in person and online using grocery store apps and websites.

They looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, the nonprofit explained.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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