Thanksgiving, one of the biggest food holidays of the year, is going to cost just a little bit more this year, according to an informal survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The average cost of a Thanksgiving feast for 10 people has gone up 37 cents this year to $49.41. Experts say poor growing weather, changing food trends and worldwide demand has contributed to increases in several Thanksgiving staples.
The survey involved 179 volunteers who checked prices at grocery stores in 35 states. Those items, included turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, bread rolls, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin and beverages such as coffee and milk.
Surprisingly, Thanksgiving’s biggest ticket item, the turkey, dropped 11 cents from the previous year. In 2014, a 16-pound turkey cost an average of $21.65.
John Anderson, deputy chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said that while turkey production has been somewhat lower this year, grocers often use turkeys as “loss leaders” to entice shoppers to come into the store to buy other products.
And its those other products used during Thanksgiving that will cost you more. Any dairy related items, including whipping cream and milk, have gone up in price. A half-pint of whipping cream went up 15 cents and a gallon of milk rose 10 cents compared to last year, the survey showed.
Mike Marsh, president of the Modesto-based Western United Dairymen, said global demand for milk has been fairly strong for most of the year and has driven domestic prices higher. Butter prices reached near record levels this summer as dairy operators had trouble keeping up with demand. Butter prices, however, are expected to soften in the coming year as supplies are catching up, Marsh said.
The survey also found that a three pound supply of sweet potatoes rose 20 cents. Sweet potato industry officials say poor growing weather in the South, California’s drought and increased demand have pinched supplies this year, causing prices to rise.
Sarah Alvernaz, general manager of California Sweet Potato Growers in Atwater, said demand for sweet potatoes is growing as more people eat them as part of their regular meals and not just during the holiday. California, the nation’s biggest grower west of the Mississippi, has not been able to significantly expand its acreage because of the competition for land and limited water supplies.
“We have been riding a wave of popularity,” said Alvernaz. “But the cost of water has really hit us hard.”
Food items that dropped in price, include a 14-ounce package of cubed stuffing that fell 13 cents, pie shells dropped 7 cents and a 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries was 8 cents cheaper.
Farm bureau officials say that despite the increase in some items, the overall price of a Thanksgiving meal has remained fairly constant over the last four years at about $50.
“America’s farmers and ranchers remain committed to continuously improving the way they grow food for our tables, both everyday meals and special occasions like Thanksgiving dinner that many of us look forward to all year,” Anderson said. “We are blessed to be able to provide a special holiday meal for 10 people for about $5 per serving — less than the cost of most fast food meals.”