GREENVILLE — According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual informal price survey for the classic Thanksgiving dinner, the cost for a meal for 10 people topped $50 for the first time this year.
Predictions this summer of shortages of turkeys for Thanksgiving because of the avian flu did not come to pass as expected, but lower supply did lead to a slight increase in the cost of turkey per pound.
“The good news is the avian flu hit early enough in the year, and since most whole turkeys you buy at Thanksgiving are hens, there was sufficient time for a lot of the farms to be repopulated,” said Mike Lilburn, professor of animal sciences with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State University.
Female turkeys take about 16 to 18 weeks to grow to 22-25 pounds, when they are normally harvested to provide an 18-20 pound bird at retail. Since the outbreak of avian flu occurred in the late spring, turkey producers have had enough time to begin to restock and grow turkeys for the traditional Thanksgiving meal, Lilburn said.
However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported last month that turkey prices were expected to rise to $1.31 to $1.37 per pound this fall, about 20 cents higher than last year.
The Farm Bureau survey found turkey to be about $1.44 per pound this year and reported that came in only about 9 cents per pound higher than last year’s.
The Greenville Kroger had its lowest priced whole turkeys at $1.59 per pound on Monday; however, much lower sale prices have been available at various locations for the past couple of weeks, for those who planned ahead. Grocers often drop the price of turkeys during the holiday season as the centerpiece of the meal in order to entice shoppers to come to their store for their other meal items.
“Retail prices seem to have stabilized quite a bit for turkey, which is the centerpiece of the meal in our marketbasket,” AFBF Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson said. “There were some production disruptions earlier this year due to the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in the Midwest. Turkey production is down this year but not dramatically. Our survey shows a modest increase in turkey prices compared to last year.”
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.
Foods showing the largest increases this year in addition to turkey were pumpkin pie mix, a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, cubed bread stuffing and pie shells. A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.20; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.61; and two nine-inch pie shells, $2.47.
A total of 138 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 32 states. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey.
A breakdown of the costs in this year’s survey follows: 16-pound turkey, $23.04; miscellaneous ingredients (portions of typical pantry items), $3.18; sweet potatoes, 3 pounds, $3.57; whipping cream, 1/2 pint, $1.94; milk, 1 gallon whole, $3.25; pumpkin pie mix, 30-ounce can, $3.20; 1-pound relish tray of carrots and celery (not purchased ready made), 79 cents; green peas, 1 pound, $1.52; cubed stuffing, 14-ounce bag, $2.61; fresh cranberries, 12 ounces, $2.29; premade pie shells, two, $2.47; rolls, 12, $2.25 — for a total of $50.11.
An informal survey of the same meal purchased on Monday at the Greenville Kroger was priced as follows: 16-pound turkey (at $1.59 per pound), $25.44; miscellaneous ingredients (using AFBF survey figure), $3.18; sweet potatoes, 3 pounds, $2.97 (at 99 cents per pound); whipping cream, 1/2 pint, $1.50; milk, 1 gallon whole, $2.59; pumpkin pie mix, 30-ounce can, $2.99 (sale price listed but was sold out); 1-pound relish tray of carrots and celery, could not be duplicated because of prepackaged vegetables, 1-pound bag of carrots, 69 cents, and one bunch of celery, 99 cents, total $1.68 for about 2 pounds; green peas (frozen), 1 pound, $1; cubed stuffing, 14-ounce bag, $2.50; fresh cranberries, 12 ounces, $1.50; premade pie shells, two, $2.50; rolls, 12, $2.50 — for a total of $50.35.