Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for family and friends to gather together. But with inflation on the rise, it’s no surprise that grocery bills will be much higher for those putting out the spread this year.
The American Farm Bureau’s annual Thanksgiving survey shows the average cost of the classic meal for a family of 10 in 2022 is $64.05, just under $6.50 per person. This is a 20% increase from last year’s meal price of $53.31 and a 36% increase from 2020.
The centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables – the turkey – costs more than last year at $28.96 for a 16-pound bird. That’s $1.81 per pound, up 21% from last year. The only menu item to see a decrease this year was a bag of fresh cranberries. Here’s a summary of the AFBF survey price changes for the Thanksgiving menu:
- 16-pound turkey: $28.96 or $1.81 per pound (up 21%)
- 14-ounce bag of cubed stuffing mix: $3.88 (up 69%)
- 2 frozen pie crusts: $3.68 (up 26%)
- Half pint of whipping cream: $2.24 (up 26%)
- 1 pound of frozen peas: $1.90 (up 23%)
- 1 dozen dinner rolls: $3.73 (up 22%)
- Misc. ingredients to prepare the meal: $4.13 (up 20%)
- 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix: $4.28 (up 18%)
- 1 gallon of whole milk: $3.84 (up 16%)
- 3 pounds of sweet potatoes: $3.96 (up 11%)
- 1-pound veggie tray (carrots & celery): 88 cents (up 8%)
- 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries: $2.57 (down 14%)
Inflation is to blame for the majority of this year’s price increases. “General inflation has been running 7% to 9% in recent months, while the most recent Consumer Price Index report for food consumed at home reveals a 12% increase over the past year,” says AFBF Chief Economist Roger Cryan.
In addition to inflation, supply chain issues and higher commodity prices have also driven food prices higher.
Farmers feel the pinch
Despite the higher commodity prices, farmers are also experiencing the pain of higher prices. Fuel prices have doubled since this time in 2021, and fertilizer prices have tripled.
Farmers only receive eight cents of every retail dollar spent on food. This means farmers see roughly $5.12 out of the total $64.05 spend on this year’s Thanksgiving feast.
“Farmers are working hard to meet growing demands for food – both here in the U.S. and globally – while facing rising prices for fuel, fertilizer and other inputs,” said Cryan.
Challenging year for turkey producers
Higher turkey costs can be attributed to a smaller flock this year due to avian influenza, increased feed costs and lighter processing weights.
Despite these challenges, turkey production is only down 2% from one year ago.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, producers prioritized building up supplies of whole hens in time for Thanksgiving. August cold stocks of whole hens, the birds typically served for Thanksgiving dinner, were 12% higher than the same time last year – but still remain below the 5-year average.
Cryan notes the turkey supply should be adequate for consumers through the holiday season, but there may be temporary regional shortages in states where avian influenza was detected earlier this year.
The Farm Bureau reported that without turkey factored in, the meal costs just 6.6% more than last year.
Save on your grocery bill
For all the procrastinators out there, there’s some good news. The Farm Bureau’s meal price is based on a survey of volunteer shoppers who checked prices Oct. 18-31. As Thanksgiving approaches, shoppers can likely find a turkey for a lower price than the Farm Bureau average.
Since the shopper survey was conducted, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service data shows significantly more stores are offering deals ahead of the holiday. The average per-pound advertised price for a whole turkey was $1.11 the week of Nov. 3-9, and it dropped 14% to just 95 cents per pound the following week.
Cryan reminds consumers to buy the turkey early enough to have sufficient time to thaw before cooking. USDA says it’s safe to cook a completely frozen turkey; however, it will take at least 50% longer to fully cook.
Jason Lusk, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, explains turkeys are often “loss leaders” for grocery stores. This means retailers will offer specials and discounts on the item everyone is looking for to get them in the door so that they’ll buy all the other things it takes to make a Thanksgiving meal.
Looking for other ways to save?
- Start shopping early
- Shop advertisements and use store apps to find the best prices
- Opt for generic brands
- Scale back the menu