The average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner is slightly lower this year while farmers still only receive a sliver of the retail prices for some of the main dishes served.
That's kind of a short summary from the American Farm Bureau's annual snapshot looking at the costs of the holiday feast and the National Farmers Union's separate analysis looking at the farmer's share of that feast.
AFBF: COST OF THE MEAL
AFBF's survey shows the cost to create a Thanksgiving meal for ten people is $61.17, or about $6.20 per person.
That's down about 4.5% from last year's record of $64.05, but still reflects some of the price changes since the pandemic. The average Thanksgiving meal is still 25% higher than it was in 2019.
Farm Bureau uses volunteer shoppers to check prices on Nov. 1-6, which AFBF notes is often before retail chains begin cutting prices for frozen turkeys. Farm Bureau pegged a 16-pound turkey at an average of $27.35, or $1.71 a pound, down 5.6% from last year. Still, a good bargain shopper right now can typically find a similar turkey for under $1 a pound.
Despite the recent reports of highly-pathogenic avian influenza hitting some commercial turkey operations, the numbers aren't as bad as in recent years.
"Traditionally, the turkey is the most expensive item on the Thanksgiving dinner table," said Veronica Night, an AFBF senior economist. "Turkey prices have fallen thanks to a sharp reduction in cases of avian influenza, which have allowed production to increase in time for the holiday."
Farm Bureau's volunteer shoppers buy turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty of leftovers.
"While shoppers will see a slight improvement in the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner, high inflation continues to hammer families across the country, including the nation's farmers," said Zippy Duvall, AFBF's president. "Growing the food families rely on is a constant challenge for farmers because of high fuel, seed, fertilizer and transportation costs, just to name a few.
NFU: FARMERS GET CENTS ON THE DOLLARS
NFU prices a more modest turkey, 11 pounds, at $21.89, or $1.99 a pound. Of that full price, the farmer is getting 66 cents, essentially six cents per pound.
NFU's Thanksgiving dinner is a little less in overall items listed, but pegs the shopping receipt at $50.53 for some major items including mashed potatoes, sweet corn, stuffing, a boneless ham, pumpkin pie filling and cranberries. Out of that $50,53, farmers receive $3.57, which is weighted heavily with the $1.32 farmers would get for the ham.
"Turkey and stuffing, the centerpieces of many Thanksgiving tables, have the lowest farmer's share of the food dollar of the group with just $0.03 and $0.02 of each dollar spent at retail making it back to growers," NFU noted.
NFU gets its data on pricing from USDA and other industry sources. NFU often keeps tab on the farmer's share of retail pricing.
"During this festive season, let's rededicate ourselves to a system that provides a good income to farmers, enhances our natural resources, and eliminates all food insecurity," said Aaron Lehman, president of Iowa Farmers Union. "One of the best ways to do that is to buy directly from our local farmer for your holiday meals."
Personally, I'm a little disappointed an optional apple pie is not priced into either AFBF's or NFU's price calculations, but I do appreciate AFBF factored in the whipped cream.
For people like myself, Farm Bureau's shoppers did add some options, including a boneless ham, Russet potatoes and frozen green beans, in an expanded menu. Adding these foods to the classic Thanksgiving menu increased the overall cost by $23.58, to $84.75.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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