Still a bargain: Cost of turkey dinner up slightly from '09

The cost of feeding turkey dinner to 10 friends and relatives today inched up this year, but farm advocates say it's still a bargain. In the annual American Farm Bureau Federation survey, the cost of Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings was...

The cost of feeding turkey dinner to 10 friends and relatives today inched up this year, but farm advocates say it's still a bargain.

In the annual American Farm Bureau Federation survey, the cost of Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings was put at $43.47, up 1.3 percent from 2009. But it's also $1.14 cheaper than what shoppers paid two years ago, at $44.61.

For the first time, the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation also participated, and put the cost of providing Thanksgiving dinner to 10 in Minnesota at $46.71 -- more than $3 higher than the national average.

"While this year's meal remains a bargain, at less than $4.35 per person ($4.67 in Minnesota), America's farmers and ranchers are perhaps most proud of the quality and variety of the food they produce for America's dinner table," said AFBF President Bob Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Texas.

"Our farm and ranch families are honored knowing that again this year Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering with their families around the traditional feast," he said. "It is fitting that the food we produce from our land is a focal point of our nation's thankful celebration of its collective bounty."


The big ticket item -- a 16-pound turkey -- was actually cheaper this year at $17.66, roughly $1.10 a pound, a decrease of about 6 cents per pound, or 99 cents off the whole turkey compared to 2009. The Minnesota price this year is $19.30 for the 16-pound turkey.

"Turkey prices are down some this year despite the fact that, according to Agriculture Department estimates, turkey production has been slightly lower in 2010 than in 2009 and supplies of turkey in cold storage are below last year's level," said John Anderson, an AFBF economist.

"This suggests that retailers are being fairly aggressive in featuring turkeys in special sales and promotions," said Anderson. "Overall, the change in the price of this year's Thanksgiving dinner is basically in line with the modest changes that we've seen in the overall price level this year. At $4.35 per person, our traditional Thanksgiving feast is still a better deal than most fast-food value meals, plus it's a wholesome, home cooked meal."

The AFBF survey shopping list includes 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.

In other comparisons, a gallon of whole milk increased in price by 38 cents per gallon, to $3.24 and was $3.61 in Minnesota. Other items that showed a price increase from last year were: a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $2.62 ($2.34 in Minnesota), up 17 cents; two 9-inch pie shells, $2.46 ($2.58 in Minnesota), up 12 cents; ½-pint of whipping cream, $1.70 ( $1.78 in Minnesota), up 15 cents; three pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.19 ($3.69 in Minnesota), up 7 cents; a one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery, 77 cents ($1.21 in Minnesota), up 5 cents; a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.12 ($2.52 in Minnesota), up 4 cents.

"Some of the Thanksgiving dinner items have rebounded from quite low price levels in 2009," said Anderson. "For example, last year's milk price was at its lowest level since 2001. Dairy product prices have climbed some in 2010, largely reflecting better consumer demand as the economy has gradually improved this year."

Joining the turkey as items that decreased in price this year were: one pound of green peas, $1.44 ($1.39 in Minnesota), down 14 cents; and a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.64 ($2.72 in Minnesota), down 1 cent.

Another of the traditional Thanksgiving items, fresh cranberries, was unchanged from last year, with a 12-ounce package selling for $2.41, or $2.35 in Minnesota.


Anderson said despite retail price increases during the last year or so, American consumers have enjoyed relatively stable food costs over the years, particularly when adjusted for inflation.

The 1.3 percent increase in the national average cost reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the organization's 2010 quarterly marketbasket food surveys, he added.

Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible price without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.

Related Topics: FOOD
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