Despite pandemic, Thanksgiving dinner costs remain stable

Annual Thanksgiving Dinner marketbasket survey.

Amid changing times, Thanksgiving meal food prices in Wisconsin remain stable this year according to Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s annual Marketbasket survey that rang in at $60.97.

The Marketbasket survey is an informal look at the price of popular food items used to prepare a Thanksgiving meal in quantities sufficient to serve 10 people. This survey allows for Wisconsin food prices to be compared with food prices from across the country. The American Farm Bureau Federation’s survey of the same items came in slightly lower than the state survey with a grand total of $60.11.

“Our Thanksgiving celebration may look a little different this year as we aren’t able to gather with as many family or friends, but it is still an excellent time to reflect on all that we are grateful for including access to healthy and affordable food items,” said Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Director of Communications Sarah Hetke. “We experienced a time earlier this year when grocery store shelves were bare or picked over in most parts of the country. The role farmers, agriculturists and food workers play in our every day lives cannot be taken for granted.”

Wisconsin’s Thanksgiving Marketbasket survey is an informal, annual review of food price trends in relation to changing farm prices, weather and wholesale and retail food marketing.

Wisconsin Farm Bureau members collected price samples of 15 Thanksgiving food items in November. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, shoppers were encouraged to use internet shopping services to check prices at their local grocery store.

Amid changing times, Thanksgiving meal food prices in Wisconsin remain stable this year according to Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s annual Marketbasket survey that rang in at $60.97.

Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers were asked to look for the best prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.

“Pricing whole turkeys as ‘loss leaders’ to entice shoppers and move product is a strategy we’re seeing retailers use that’s increasingly common the closer we get to the holiday,” said AFBF Chief Economist Dr. John Newton. 

The centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables – the turkey – costs less than last year, at $19.39 for a 16-pound bird. That’s roughly $1.21 per pound, down 7% from last year. The survey results show that retail turkey prices are the lowest since 2010.

Farmer's share decreases

During the last three decades, retail grocery prices have gradually increased while the share of the average dollar spent on food that farm families receive has decreased. In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures in grocery stores and restaurants. Since then that figure has decreased steadily and is now 14.6 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Using that percentage across the board, the farmers’ share of this year’s $60.97 grocery bill is $8.90.

“After accounting for bills and other payments that need to be made, farmers’ net income off each retail food dollar is just eight cents,” Hetke added. “Wisconsin shoppers can support farmers by purchasing food products that are grown and raised in our state and across the Midwest.”

The USDA says Americans will spend approximately 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average in the world.

Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest farm organization. Made up of 61 county Farm Bureaus, it represents farms of every size, commodity and management style.