Thanksgiving dinner, turkey is cheaper this year

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A shopper walks past turkeys displayed for sale in a grocery store ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on November 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

Mario Tama | Getty Images News

Food inflation has been on a tear, with prices for food at home up 2.1% year over year in October, according to the consumer price index.

But not everything costs more.

Thanksgiving dinner this year will take less of a toll on your wallet, thanks in large part to lower turkey prices. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the average cost of a dinner for 10 people will be $61.17, down 4.5% from last year’s record of $64.05.

The findings come from a survey conducted between November 1 and 6, by members of the agricultural advocacy group examining prices at grocery stores in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Almost everything on the Thanksgiving menu is lower – cranberry prices have dropped 18%. But the main reason for the reduction is due to the star of the show – the turkey. This year, a 16-pound turkey is averaging $27.35, down 5.6% from a year ago.

“Consumers who haven’t purchased a turkey may find additional savings in the days leading up to Thanksgiving,” the advocacy group said.

This is particularly good news, as turkey prices shot up 50% between 2020 and 2022 – although they are still 30% higher than 2019, before the pandemic, which many consider to be a baseline .

Why are Turkish prices falling? There is plenty of demand, but there is even more supply.

Thank you very much 2023

Average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people, by region:

  • Northeast: $64.38
  • Right: $59.10
  • Mediterranean: $58.66
  • West: $63.89

Source: American Farm Bureau Federation

“Last year, bird flu devastated our industry, we lost six to seven million turkeys,” said Heidi Diestel of Diestel Turkey Ranch in Jamestown, California. Her family raises up to 300,000 turkeys a year for high-end customers who shop at stores like Whole Foods.

As we talked this week in one of her barns that housed hundreds of large turkeys – often pecking in unison – she told me that this year’s flu brought the -will affect some of her family’s flock.

“We had to kill some birds, unfortunately,” she said.

So her farm, like many other turkey operations, raised a lot of extra turkeys this year to make up supplies. They did it in case there was another round of flu. But this year’s bird flu hasn’t been too bad – at least not yet – so farmers are stuck with plenty of birds. “We’re heavy on supply,” Diestel said.

Meanwhile, she has noted that some grocery stores have been cautious in ordering turkeys after a year of high inflation.

“Retailers have certainly been a lot more conscious about what they’re buying – they’re buying a bit more lean – to make sure they don’t have a lot left,” she said. people trying to cut their costs and operate as efficiently as possible.”

Inflation was flat in October from the previous month, headline CPI hit a two-year low

She believes Diestel Turkey Ranch’s revenues will be higher this year than they were back before the pandemic, but profits will be lower. Things like food cost a lot more now. “We have margin erosion,” Diestel said.

New Jersey turkey farmer Ronnie Lee has projected that consumers could pull back on consumption.

“This year we started our turkeys later than we’ve ever started before, because I predict the size is just going to be a little bit smaller than last year,” he said. People are starting to feel the pinch.”

Lee says one of the benefits of producing smaller birds is that they are easier for workers to transport during processing. That helps, because he is struggling to find workers, and he has to pay them more.

“Labor is up, there’s no two ways about it,” he said. Workers at his farm make at least $20 an hour. Even so, he said, “it can be hard to find people to do it.”

At least for consumers, however, the news is good. And maybe it will get better. Turkey prices could go even lower if supplies continue to rise. Heidi Diestel says that while the latest round of bird flu has had little impact, even a hint of flu could close export markets.

“We might even have more turkeys,” she said, before adding with a laugh: “Just enjoy a turkey dinner more than once a year.”

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