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The price of Thanksgiving dinner increases by only one cent

Let’s be honest – when we think of Thanksgiving it’s all about the food. There’s some good news this year. The price of turkey is down. The average cost of the whole meal is up by one cent.

Each year, since 1986, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has conducted a survey of typical food items on a Thanksgiving meal menu. This year the price remained essentially unchanged from last year. This is a pleasant surprise since food prices, in general, have been on the uptick in grocery stores. The increase isn’t enough to panic over but it is noticeable for regular shoppers. Food prices between September and October 2019 rose 2.1% higher than in October 2018. 2020 prices are expected to rise between 0.5% and 1.5%.

The price for turkeys this year is down by 4% on average. Using a 16-pound turkey as a guide, the price was about $1.30 per pound. Retail turkey prices are the lowest since 2010. Looking at my own grocery store receipt, I paid more than that because mine is a fresh turkey, not frozen, which always costs more. (The brand is Butterball.) Our smallish fresh turkey – 8.50 pounds – was $2.49 per pound. I should also mention that the choice of the grocery store was one of the higher-priced options, simply due to convenience. I probably could have gotten a better price elsewhere.

The best part of the annual feast, for me anyway, is all the side dishes. This year the price of those is a mixed bag. The AFBF survey included stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, and a veggie tray. All quantities are enough to feed a family gathering of 10 people. (My Thanksgiving dinner this year is for 3 adults.) Pumpkin pie with whipped cream is included as a dessert with coffee and milk as the beverages. The prices of cubed bread stuffing and canned pumpkin pie mix are slightly down while dinner rolls, sweet potatoes and milk are slightly up. Totaled and adjusting for inflation, the cost is slightly down. It averages out to less than $5.00 per person.

This year’s AFBF survey used 250 volunteers who checked prices in 38 states. They were asked to skip promotional coupons and special purchase deals – just to look for the best prices.

Many people add ham to the menu and that raises the price of the meal. Most Americans, though, still prefer to cook the meal at home.

The opinion poll revealed that 90% of Americans celebrate the holiday with a special meal and turkey remains a staple for 95% of consumers, while half serve both turkey and ham at their Thanksgiving meal. In recognition of changes in Thanksgiving dinner traditions, the Farm Bureau price survey includes ham, potatoes and frozen green beans. Adding these foods to the classic Thanksgiving menu increased the overall cost slightly, to $62.32 or just over $6 per person.

Despite the growing popularity of prepared foods, the vast majority of Americans, 92%, celebrate Thanksgiving at home or at a family member’s home and most cook their entire meal at home, according to the survey.

AFBF chief economist John Newton noted how little of our food purchase dollars actually go to farmers.

“Americans continue to enjoy the most affordable food supply in the world, but most don’t realize only 8 cents of every dollar consumers spend on food goes to farmers,” Newton said.

Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American celebration. I’m thankful for the blessings of being an American, America’s farmers, and family and loved ones. We all have much to be thankful for in this country. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

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