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Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Continues to Decline

Market Intel / November 15, 2018

Credit: Sarah Lowgren / CC BY 2.0 

American Farm Bureau Federation’s 33rd annual price survey of the classic Thanksgiving dinner – including turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and all the fixings -- revealed an average cost for a family of 10 was $48.90, less than $5 per person and down less than 1 percent from prior-year levels. Since 2015, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined steadily and is now at the lowest level since 2010. When adjusting for inflation, the cost of Thanksgiving dinner this year was less than $2 per person and was the most affordable in more than a decade, Figure 1.

For 2018, more than 150 volunteer shoppers from 37 states visited their local grocery stores to survey the prices of the various items used to prepare their Thanksgiving feast. To establish an accurate representation of the cost of this holiday meal, shoppers were asked to find the best value without using any coupons or discounts. Figure 2 illustrates the year-over-year look at the per-item meal cost, adjusted for inflation, from 2008 to 2018.

One of the major factors driving the decrease in the cost of Thanksgiving dinner is turkey prices coming in at an average of $1.36 per pound, or $21.71 for a 16-pound bird. This is down 3 percent, or nearly 70 cents, from last year’s $22.38, or $1.40 per pound. Our survey results show that the cost of turkey this year is the lowest since 2014. These results are in line with USDA data indicating wholesale turkey prices have been trending lower in recent years and are nearing levels not seen since 2010.

Heading into the holiday season, turkey production in 2018, along with frozen turkeys in inventory, are in line with prior-year levels. However, inventories haven’t been this high since 2009. This is helping to keep turkeys affordable this Thanksgiving. Survey shoppers also registered lower prices for other items, including milk, frozen peas and sweet potatoes.

In contrast, items on the Thanksgiving dinner menu that saw higher prices this year include stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie mix. Cranberries have seen higher supplies in recent years, prompting USDA to put in place volume controls to support those growers. Figure 3 illustrates the cost of the bird relative to the cost of the sides in a year-over-year outlook.

To reflect the diversity in Thanksgiving meals across the U.S., several new items were added to the survey. The new menu items include a bone-in ham, Russet potatoes and green beans. When including those items, the total cost of the dinner was $61.72.

Finally, with the rise of grocery delivery services throughout the country, popular food delivery services were surveyed to evaluate the cost for the same menu items in the Farm Bureau survey. The results show that the cost of convenience will increase the price of Thanksgiving dinner by as much as 60 percent, with turkey nearly 50 percent higher at almost $2 per pound. When including the new menu items added this year, the cost would increase to more than $10 per person – before delivery fees.  

Contact:
John Newton, Ph.D.
Chief Economist
(202) 406-3729
jnewton@fb.org
 
Megan Nelson
Economic Analyst
(202) 406-3629
megann@fb.org
 

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