Expect to pay more this year to stage your Thanksgiving feast

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (NPR) — Get ready to add another stressor to your Thanksgiving holiday this year. The Farm Bureau reports that the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people is up 14% over last year, averaging at $53.31.

Frozen turkeys sit in a refrigerated case inside a grocery store
Frozen turkeys sit in a refrigerated case Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, inside a grocery store in southeast Denver. [AP Photo | David Zalubowski]
The Farm Bureau’s calculations include turkey, stuffing mix, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk, with enough for leftovers. The turkey itself costs 24% more than last year, the group says; it’s $23.99 for a 16-pound turkey.

In order to find the average costs, the Farm Bureau used volunteer shoppers between Oct. 28 and Nov. 8. — but the group, which lobbies on behalf of the agricultural industry, acknowledged that prices have already fallen in the time since the survey was conducted. This year, many grocery stores lowered prices later in the year, so the price of a frozen turkey, for example, is actually a lot more affordable right now. At the time of the survey, the cost for a 16-pound bird was around $1.50 per pound. But over the last week, it had fallen to 88 cents per pound for a whole frozen turkey.

Veronica Nigh, a senior economist at the Farm Bureau, says several factors help explain the increased costs this year, including disruptions to the supply chain, inflation and high demand for food, especially meat.

“The trend of consumers cooking and eating at home more often due to the pandemic led to increased supermarket demand and higher retail food prices in 2020 and 2021, compared to pre-pandemic prices in 2019,” Nigh said.

But rising prices are far from limited to the dinner table. Last week, the Labor Department reported that consumer prices were 6.2% higher in October than a year ago. It was the largest jump in inflation since 1990.

In separate figures released by the Department of Agriculture this week, the price of Thanksgiving staples were at a more modest 5% increase over last year. Their list, based on numbers from from the AMS Market News Retail Report for the week ending on November 12, includes a 12-pound frozen turkey, sweet and russet potatoes, cranberries, green beans and one gallon of milk.

“We know that even small price increases can make a difference for family budgets, and we are taking every step we can to mitigate that,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

“The good news is that the top turkey producers in the country are confident that everyone who wants a bird for their Thanksgiving dinner will be able to get one, and a large one will only cost $1 dollar more than last year.”

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