It may come as no surprise, the cost of a Thanksgiving meal is up.
The American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner cost survey for 2022 shows the national average price of the traditional holiday meal will be up by 20% from 2021.
The Farm Bureau’s 37th annual survey provides a snapshot of the average cost of this year’s classic Thanksgiving feast for 10, which is $64.05 or less than $6.50 per person. This is a $10.74 or 20% increase from last year’s average of $53.31.
In 2021, the Farm Bureau reported a 14% increase from the 2020 average Thanksgiving cost of $46.90.
But the actual cost of a turkey dinner may be lower, depending on when the consumer did their shopping and bargain prices offered by local grocers.
The big thing on most Thanksgiving tables – the turkey – will cost more than last year, at $28.96 for a 16-pound bird. That’s $1.81 per pound, up 21% from last year, due to several factors beyond general inflation, according to the Farm Bureau.
Farm Bureau “volunteer shoppers” checked prices Oct. 18-31, before most grocery store chains began featuring whole frozen turkeys at sharply lower prices.
According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service data, the average per-pound feature price for whole frozen turkeys was $1.11 the week of Nov. 3-9 and 95 cents the week of Nov. 10-16, a decline of 14% in just one week; and the share of stores offering feature prices rose from 29% to 60%.
This means consumers who have not yet purchased a turkey should be able to find one at a lower cost than the Farm Bureau average. But if consumers haven’t purchased a turkey for tomorrow’s dinner their options might be limited. Thawing a 16 pound frozen turkey by the safest method, in the refrigerator, will take 4-5 days, according to the USDA.
“General inflation slashing the purchasing power of consumers is a significant factor contributing to the increase in average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” said AFBF chief economist Roger Cryan.
General inflation has been running 7% to 9% in recent months, while the most recent Consumer Price Index report for food consumed at home reveals a 12% increase over the past year.
“Other contributing factors to the increased cost for the meal include supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine,” Cryan said. “The higher retail turkey cost at the grocery store can also be attributed to a slightly smaller flock this year, increased feed costs and lighter processing weights.”
Cryan said the supply of whole turkeys available to consumers should be adequate this year, although there may be temporary, regional shortages in some states where avian influenza was detected earlier this year.
Utah turkeys were not immune to the avian influenza. The USDA reported 19 avian flu incidents among Utah commercial bird meat growers that affected 702,400 as of July 2022.
Despite the avian influenza, the National Turkey Federation reported that turkeys should be available for consumers this year.
“If you’re looking for a turkey product this Thanksgiving, you’ll be able to find one,” said Joel Brandenberger, NTF president. “There has been a lot of discussion about whether avian influenza or the general economy is going to affect this holiday season. Thanks to the hard work of U.S. turkey producers, there will be an ample supply of turkeys available for Thanksgiving. Turkeys already are available for purchase in most grocery stores and supermarkets, and many retailers are offering special discounts and attractive prices on whole turkeys this Thanksgiving.”
But the National Turkey Federation advised early shopping for holiday dinner birds.
“Planning ahead is our top tip for securing a turkey that meets your needs — and it will also help reduce some of that holiday stress,” said Beth Breeding, NTF vice president. “If there is a specific weight or style of turkey you require, you’ll want to shop earlier or contact your local grocery store to find out when those products will be available.
The shopping list for the Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.
In recognition of changes in Thanksgiving dinner traditions, the Farm Bureau price survey also includes ham, Russet potatoes and frozen green beans, in an expanded holiday menu. Adding these foods to the classic Thanksgiving menu increased the overall cost by $17.25, to $81.30. This updated basket of foods also increased in price, up 18%, compared to 2021.
This year’s national average cost was calculated using 224 surveys completed with pricing data from all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
AFBF analysis revealed regional differences in the cost of the meal.
The cost for the classic meal was the most affordable in the South — $58.42, followed by the Northeast — $64.02, Midwest — $64.26 and West — $71.37. The expanded meal (classic meal plus ham, green beans and Russet potatoes) was the most affordable in the South — $74.90, followed by the Midwest -— $81.53, Northeast — $82.76 and West — $88.55.
Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers checked prices in person and online using grocery store apps and websites. They looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.