Higher turkey prices raise cost of Thanksgiving meal, INFB survey shows

Increases in the price of turkey were largely responsible for an increase in the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal, according to Farm Bureau’s annual informal Thanksgiving “market basket” survey.

Indiana Farm Bureau’s survey showed an average price of $50.33 for a 16-pound turkey, the ingredients for stuffing and pumpkin pie, and other components of a traditional holiday meal. This is $3.40 higher than last year’s total and $2.21 higher than 2013’s total, but it’s only 28 cents higher than the total for 2012.

The main reason for the increase in 2015 is higher prices for turkey, which can be attributed to disruptions in production due to the outbreak of avian influenza earlier this year on some of the nation’s turkey farms. Indiana’s survey showed an average price of $1.57 per pound for turkey, which is 26 cents per pound higher than last year.

“Retail prices seem to have stabilized quite a bit for turkey, which is the centerpiece of the meal in our market basket,” noted John Anderson, deputy chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. “There were some production disruptions earlier this year due to the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in the Midwest. Turkey production is down this year but not dramatically. Our survey shows a modest increase in turkey prices compared to last year.”
He added, though, that retailers are starting to feature turkeys aggressively for the holiday, and therefore shoppers could actually see prices fall below last year’s average.

“Even with the increase, the cost of this year’s meal averages only about $5 per serving,” noted Isabella Chism, Indiana Farm Bureau second vice president, who farms with her family in Howard County. “Indiana’s farm families are honored to produce the food for the Thanksgiving dinner table and throughout the year.”

INFB’s survey is part of a national survey coordinated by the American Farm Bureau. Thirty-one volunteer shoppers around the state participated, and their shopping list included turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and both coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 and leave plenty for leftovers. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.

Aside from turkey, the other food items on the list that rose in price showed only small increases: a dozen brown-and-serve rolls, up 23 cents per dozen; stuffing, which increased by 14 cents to $2.54 for a 14-ounce bag; frozen pie crusts, up 7 cents to $2.40 for a two-crust package; a half-pint of whipping cream, up 6 cents to $1.95; and pumpkin pie filling mix, up 5 cents for a 30-ounce can to $3.19.

“Despite concerns earlier this fall about pumpkin production due to wet weather, the supply of canned product will be adequate for this holiday season,” Anderson said.

Among the items that declined in price were 3 pounds of sweet potatoes, which dropped by 39 cents to $3.32 cents per pound; frozen peas, which dropped by 31 cents to $1.07 for a 16-ounce package; a collection of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), which decreased by 30 cents for a total of $3.18; and whole milk, which dropped by 24 cents to $2.69 per gallon. Small decreases were also recorded for fresh cranberries, down 5 cents per 12-ounce bag to $2.19, and a one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery, which dropped by 2 cents to 80 cents.

The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home. For October, the most recent month available, the food at home CPI posted a 0.7 percent increase compared to a year ago (available online at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm).

Indiana Farm Bureau first started participating in the national market basket survey in 1993. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged to allow for consistent price comparisons.

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