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Traditional Thanksgiving meal price jumps

Like a cherry on a sundae, 4- month-old Jana Donat slept soundly in her infant car seat propped on her mother's grocery cart, which was filled to the brim with Thanksgiving food.

Jana's mother, Beth, had two Thanksgiving meals to make this year, one meal for her side of the family and one for her husband's side. She seemed in no rush Tuesday to make sure she had everything she needed for her duel feasts as she perused her aisles at Marketplace Food & Drug in Bemidji.

Despite a dramatic rise in Thanksgiving meal prices this year, many consumers like Beth have decided to keep the tradition alive of having a turkey and all the trimmings on the table.

A 16-pound turkey and all the trimmings cost an average of $49.20, a 13 percent jump from last year, or about $5.73 more, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which says grocers have raised prices to keep pace with higher-priced commodities.

This is like adding the cost of another person to the table, but with no additional food.

Farm Bureau's 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 beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.

Lueken's Village Foods store manager Brent Sicard said local prices reflect Farm Bureau's survey.

He said higher turkey prices could be caused by last summer's high heat index, which resulted in more turkey fatalities. He added a Minnesota turkey processing plant that caught fire and burned also resulted in a loss in some turkeys.

"Unfortunately most of the time the grocery stores have to absorb a lot of the increases, which makes grocery retail very challenging," Sicard said. "But we're hopeful we can still pass on great savings to our customers. We know everyone's going through tough times with the recession, but hopefully we can weather the storms together."

Marketplace Food & Drug store director Arlene Billberg said the store was holding its prices steady from last year, but said some food prices have increased.

Last year's pumpkin shortage was likely the cause of higher pumpkin pie mix prices this year, she said.

"Grocers had to get ahead of the game on this," Billberg said.

Billberg attributed higher turkey prices to the rise in corn prices, a main staple in the diets of many farm-raised turkeys.

"There have been so many disasters in our country which has affected the cost of getting product to the market," she said. "In so many places, poor weather conditions took care of some crops."

Interestingly, Billberg said, she has seen more people varying their Thanksgiving dinner menus this year.

"I've seen prime ribs and seafood go through the counter. People are changing their habits," she added.

Karen Riopelle of Bemidji stopped by the turkey bin Tuesday at Lueken's Village Foods and said since Thanksgiving was held at her sister's place this year, she would likely have no leftover turkey to indulge on after the holiday is over.

So, she decided to purchase her own 12-pound turkey that she and her husband will have smoked and can enjoy after the holiday is over.

Riopelle said she has noticed the cost of a turkey has gone up, but said she didn't seem to mind during this time of the year.

Donat, who was shopping with her infant daughter at Marketplace, said she and her husband will sometimes purchase a turkey after Thanksgiving, when prices drop, and freeze it until the next Thanksgiving.