Thanksgiving dinner cost lowest in five years

Lower retail turkey prices due to large inventory in cold storage.

November 16, 2017

3 Min Read
Thanksgiving dinner cost lowest in five years

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) 32nd annual price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates that the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 people is $49.12, a 75-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.87.

The big-ticket item – a 16 lb. turkey – came in at a total of $22.38 this year. That’s roughly $1.40/lb. -- a decrease of 2 cents/lb., or a total of 36 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2016.

“For the second consecutive year, the overall cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined,” AFBF director of market intelligence Dr. John Newton said. “The cost of the dinner is the lowest since 2013 and second lowest since 2011. Even as America’s family farmers and ranchers continue to face economic challenges, they remain committed to providing a safe, abundant and affordable food supply for consumers at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.”


The shopping list for AFBF’s informal survey includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk -- all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 and have plenty for leftovers.

Consumers continue to see lower retail turkey prices due to continued large inventory in cold storage, which is up almost double digits from last year, Newton explained.

In addition to turkey, foods showing the largest decreases this year were milk at $2.99/gal., a dozen rolls for $2.26, two 9 in. pie shells for $2.45, a 3 lb. bag of sweet potatoes for $3.52, a 1 lb. bag of green peas for $1.53 and a group of miscellaneous items -- including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (e.g., butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) -- for $2.72.

“Milk production has increased, resulting in continued low retail prices,” Newton said. “In addition, grocers often use milk as a loss leader to entice consumers to shop at their stores.”

Items that increased modestly in price were: a half-pint of whipping cream at $2.08, a 14 oz. package of cubed bread stuffing at $2.81, a 30 oz. can of pumpkin pie mix at $3.21, a 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries at $2.43 and a 1 lb. veggie tray at 74 cents.

“Whole whipping cream is up about 4% in price due to increased consumer demand for full-fat dairy products,” Newton explained.

The stable average price AFBF reported for a classic Thanksgiving dinner this year tracks with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home, but while the most recent index report for food consumed at home shows a 0.5% increase over the past year, the AFBF survey shows a 1.5% decline.

After adjusting for inflation, the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner is $20.54, the lowest level since 2013.

A total of 141 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 39 states for this year’s survey. AFBF's 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,” AFBF noted, adding that another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is purchasing ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all of the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and takeout restaurants for around $50-75.

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