Turkey Day Dinner Cost Increases Only Slightly This Year After Big Jump in 2011

The cost of the typical Thanksgiving dinner this year is nearly unchanged after eight years of increases, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) – which has conducted the annual Thanksgiving dinner cost index survey since 1986.

This year’s increase of about 1 percent comes as good news after a monstrous 13 percent increase last year, as well as a 39 percent increase since 2004.

This year, the price for the traditional turkey dinner and all the fixings sits at $49.48 for a party of 10.

“At just under $5 per person, the cost of this year’s meal remains a bargain,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Our diverse farm and ranch families are honored to produce the food from our nation’s land for family Thanksgiving celebrations. During this holiday season, I am encouraging farmers and ranchers to reach out to consumers in-person or through social media to answer questions about the food that they grow or the livestock and poultry they raise.”

The meal 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. The price includes quantities to feed 10 people and to have sufficient leftovers.

While most things in the meal decreased in price this year, the one thing that drove the price up by a modest 1 percent was the cost of turkey. The price of turkey this year, on average, is up about 4 cents per pound, according to AFBF. In 2011, a 16-pound turkey went for $21.57, while this year it was at $22.23.

Other items that showed an increase in price this year were coffee and staple ingredients (such as onions, eggs, flour evaporated milk and butter).

Items that went down in price in this year’s survey included a half-pint of whipping cream (down 13 cents); a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing (down 11 cents); three pounds of sweet potatoes (down 11 cents); one gallon of whole milk (down seven cents); and fresh cranberries (down three cents).

Overall, however, the price was stagnant at a 28-cent increase – much lower than in recent years.

“Thanksgiving dinner is a special meal that people look forward to all year,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s chief economist. “Most Americans will pay about the same as last year at the grocery store for a turkey and all the trimmings. A slight increase in demand for turkey is responsible for the moderate price increase our shoppers reported for the bird.”

Anderson said, however, that shoppers with patience might be able to erase the increases brought on by turkey prices.

“Turkeys may still be featured in special sales and promotions close to Thanksgiving,” Anderson said. “Anyone with the patience to wait until the last minute to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving could be rewarded with an exceptional bargain.”

The AFBF employs 155 shoppers to purchase the same items in 35 different states, and have gone through that process every year since 1986. Shoppers are not allowed to take advantage of special promotions or coupon deals, but they are asked to look for the best possible prices.

Yearly Thanksgiving Dinner Averages (for a family of 10)

Source: AFBF Annual Thanksgiving Survey

1986 – $28.74

1987 – $24.51

1988 – $26.61

1989 – $24.70

1990 – $28.85

1991 – $25.95

1992 – $26.39

1993 – $27.49

1994 – $28.40

1995 – $29.64

1996 – $31.66

1997 – $31.75

1998 – $33.09

1999 – $33.83

2000 – $32.37

2001 – $35.04

2002 – $34.56

2003 – $36.28

2004 – $35.68

2005 – $36.78

2006 – $38.10

2007 – $42.26

2008 – $44.61

2009 – $42.91

2010 – $43.47

2011 – $49.20

2012 – $49.48

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