Rising prices are biting into this year's Thanksgiving Day dinner, with the cost for a 10-person feast rising 20% from last year, the American Farm Bureau Federation said Wednesday. It's the largest year-over-year increase in the 37 years the group has presented the annual price survey.
The price for a 16-pound turkey, $28.96, up 21%, was the largest expense. The largest percentage increase was for stuffing mix, rising 69% to $3.88. The only item on the menu to decline in price was fresh cranberries, at $2.57, 14% less than last year.
Providers of free Thanksgiving meals in Des Moines say they'll need increased donor support to cover their higher costs.
Despite this year's rising prices, the Farm Bureau, the nation's largest agricultural advocacy group, said the $64.05 average cost for the dinner is still a bargain at less than $6.50 a person. Last year's feast cost $53.31.
Before this year, the largest increase in the annual survey had been in 1990, when the meal's costs climbed 16.8% to $28.85. At the time, the Federal Reserve was hiking interest rates to stop surging inflation, helping to set off an eight-month recession. The second-largest increase, 13.7%, came last year.
Inflation is a major factor again this year in the rising cost, according to Farm Bureau Chief Economist Roger Cryan. General inflation has been running 7% to 9% in recent months, he said, while the most recent Consumer Price Index showed the price of food consumed at home spiked 12% over a year earlier.
Coming in at $1.81 a pound, turkey prices rose due to "a slightly smaller flock this year, increased feed costs and lighter processing weights,” Cryan said. He added that the supply of whole turkeys should be adequate this year, although there may be temporary, regional shortages in some states where avian influenza was detected this spring and fall, forcing the destruction of infected flocks.
In all, highly pathogenic avian influenza has wiped out 50.3 million birds this year, including about 8 million turkeys, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a memo Wednesday. Iowa, the nation's largest producer of eggs and seventh-largest producer of turkeys, has lost the most chickens, turkeys and other birds, at 15.5 million.
Another factor: Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has disrupted supply chains and increased energy costs as Russian exports of oil have declined amid trade sanctions. It also has spiked the cost of fertilizer, of which Russia is a major manufacturer, and cut Ukrainian grain exports.
“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,” Cryan said in a statement.
Rising prices have providers of free holiday meals worried
Karla Iversen, chairwoman of the Parks Community Thanksgiving Dinner, said Wednesday the costs to feed about 3,500 people at Chuck's Restaurant in Des Moines will be about 15% higher this year than last. Just about everything costs more this year, from the turkey and pies to the food containers, she said.
Altogether, the meal will cost about $17,000 to produce, she said.
Her huband, Bob, who has volunteered with Chuck's Thanksgiving dinner for 30 years, said he's concerned about the event's future if prices continue going up.
Even with strong donor support, "That's difficult to sustain," Iversen said.
Hope Ministries, a Des Moines nonprofit that provides shelter services for men, women and children, has seen food costs climb about 19% since July, said Kathy Coady, the group's spokeswoman.
The group, which will feed about 3,500 people on Thanksgiving, relies on donations to cover the growing costs, Coady said.
"It's really too soon to know how the year will shape up," she said. But "we need the community to show up in a big way in November and December."
Despite the rising costs, the Farm Bureau said shoppers still may find deals. The group's volunteer shoppers checked prices Oct. 18-31, before most grocery store chains began featuring whole frozen turkeys for Thanksgiving at sharply lower prices According to USDA Agricultural Marketing Service data, the average per-pound feature price for whole frozen turkeys was $1.11 the week of Nov. 3-9 and 95 cents the week of Nov. 10-16, a decline of 14% in just one week.
The share of stores offering feature prices rose to 60% from 29%, the Farm Bureau said.
That was a message USDA pushed Wednesday: Turkeys prices are dropping as promotions increase. And gobblers are available for those who want them, despite losses from bird flu.
"The turkey industry has been processing more birds and, in some cases, birds at an earlier age to increase the number of whole birds available," the agency said in its memo.
The Farm Bureau's shopping list for the survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, as well as coffee and milk.
In recognition of changes in Thanksgiving dinner traditions, the Farm Bureau price survey publishes a second estimate for an expanded holiday menu that includes ham, Russet potatoes and frozen green beans. Adding those foods to the classic menu increased the overall cost by $17.25, to $81.30. That was an 18% increase compared to 2021.
The group reported regional differences: The cost for the classic meal was the most affordable in the South, at $58.42, followed by the Northeast at $64.02, the Midwest at $64.26 and the West at $71.37. The expanded meal also was the most affordable in the South, at $74.90, followed by the Midwest at $81.53, the Northeast at $82.76 and the West at $88.55.
This year’s national average cost was calculated using 224 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 Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986. The Farm Bureau’s classic survey menu has remained unchanged to allow for consistent price comparisons.
Prices for food and sides for a Thanksgiving meal
Here are 2022 prices for each item on the Farm Bureau's classic Thanksgiving menu, and the percentage change from 2021:
16-pound turkey: $28.96 or $1.81 per pound (up 21%).
14-ounce bag of cubed stuffing mix: $3.88 (up 69%).
Two 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%).
One dozen dinner rolls: $3.73 (up 22%).
Miscellaneous 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%).
Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at email@example.com or 515-284-8457.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Thanksgiving dinner will cost more due to inflation, turkey shortage