Thanksgiving Dinner gobbles up bigger portion of food budget

Wisconsin State Farmer
From the sweet potatoes in the produce section to the whole turkey in the meat department, this year's grocery bill for Thanksgiving will gobble up a bit more of the consumer's food budget. Farm Bureau says the cost of a dinner for ten has increased 20% over last year's
feast.

Except for the fresh cranberries, items for this year's Thanksgiving Day spread rose significantly in cost this year, according to Farm Bureau's 37th annual survey which provides a snapshot of the average cost of a feast for 10.

This year's dinner gobbled up a noticeable portion of the grocery bill, with the cost ringing up at $64.05, around $6.50 person. This is a $10.74 or 20% increase from last year’s average of $53.31.

The centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables – the turkey – costs more than last year, at $28.96 for a 16-pound bird. That’s $1.81 per pound, up 21% from last year, due to several factors beyond general inflation. Farm Bureau “volunteer shoppers” checked prices Oct. 18-31, before most grocery store chains began featuring whole frozen turkeys at sharply lower prices.

In Wisconsin, the price of a Thanksgiving meal 4.3% more this year according to Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s annual Marketbasket survey that rang in at $74.54.

“Whether you are in the grocery store or on the farm, inflation is impacting us all,” said WFBF’s Director of Media Relations and Outreach Cassie Sonnentag. “Increased fuel and fertilizer costs are impacting farmers nationwide. At the grocery store we all are seeing a larger number on our receipts. However, the price of a Thanksgiving meal in our state is marginal compared to the national average and that’s something Wisconsinites can be thankful for this holiday.”

In late October, a store brand turkey at a major grocery chain in Wisconsin was listed at 1.70 per pound, while a national brand Butterball turkey was priced at 1.99 per pound. Those same birds were advertised this week for .59 per pound and .99 per pound with a store purchase of $25 or more.

The combination of tight supplies and strong holiday demand will send retail turkey prices to record highs this year, according to CoBank. However, most grocery stores are offering up promotions to reduce the price of the table's centerpiece.

According to USDA Agricultural Marketing Service data, the average per-pound feature price for whole frozen turkeys was $1.11 the week of Nov. 3-9 and 95 cents the week of Nov. 10-16, a decline of 14% in just one week; and the share of stores offering feature prices rose from 29% to 60%. This means consumers who have not yet purchased a turkey should be able to find one at a lower cost than the Farm Bureau average.

“General inflation slashing the purchasing power of consumers is a significant factor contributing to the increase in average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” said AFBF Chief Economist Roger Cryan. General inflation has been running 7% to 9% in recent months, while the most recent Consumer Price Index report for food consumed at home reveals a 12% increase over the past year.

Other contributing factors to the increased cost for the meal include supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine, Cryan said.

“The higher retail turkey cost at the grocery store can also be attributed to a slightly smaller flock this year, increased feed costs and lighter processing weights,” he said.

Cryan said the supply of whole turkeys available to consumers should be adequate this year, although there may be temporary, regional shortages in some states where avian influenza was detected earlier this year.

“Farmers are working hard to meet growing demands for food – both here in the U.S. and globally – while facing rising prices for fuel, fertilizer and other inputs,” said Cryan.

Sonnentag says shoppers looking to reduce their expenditures this Thanksgiving can do so by making locally grown purchases and shopping closer to the holiday.

 “We are fortunate to be regionally close to many Thanksgiving staples, so shoppers are likely to see lower costs on products grown and raised here in Wisconsin,” said Sonnentag. “As we get closer to the Thanksgiving holiday, we will also likely see lower prices on products due to in-store promotions.”

Shopping List

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.

Zippy Duvall

“We should not take our food supply for granted,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Supporting sustainable productive agriculture in the U.S. and globally is imperative. As many of us gather with family and friends for a special meal, it’s a time for giving thanks and doing our part to help those who can’t afford a big holiday feast,” he added. “State and local Farm Bureaus across the country have strong partnerships with local food banks and I’m proud of their collective efforts to help ensure no one goes hungry.”

In recognition of changes in Thanksgiving dinner traditions, the Farm Bureau price survey also includes ham, Russet potatoes and frozen green beans, in an expanded holiday menu. Adding these foods to the classic Thanksgiving menu increased the overall cost by $17.25, to $81.30. This updated basket of foods also increased in price (up 18%) compared to 2021.

This year’s national average cost was calculated using 224 surveys completed with pricing data from all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

This year’s national average cost was calculated using 224 surveys completed with pricing data from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers checked prices in person and online using grocery store apps and websites. They looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.

The AFBF Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986. The informal survey provides a record of comparative holiday meal costs over the years. Farm Bureau’s classic survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

National Individual Prices

  • 16-pound turkey: $28.96 or $1.81 per pound (up 21%)
  • 14-ounce bag of cubed stuffing mix: $3.88 (up 69%)
  • 2 frozen pie crusts: $3.68 (up 26%)
  • Half pint of whipping cream: $2.24 (up 26%)
  • 1 pound of frozen peas: $1.90 (up 23%)
  • 1 dozen dinner rolls: $3.73 (up 22%)
  • Misc. ingredients to prepare the meal: $4.13 (up 20%)
  • 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix: $4.28 (up 18%)
  • 1 gallon of whole milk: $3.84 (up 16%)
  • 3 pounds of sweet potatoes: $3.96 (up 11%)
  • 1-pound veggie tray (carrots & celery): 88 cents (up 8%)
  • 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries: $2.57 (down 14%)

Regional Averages

AFBF analysis revealed regional differences in the cost of the meal.  

While national averages for turkey and ham saw significant increases, Wisconsin shoppers have the advantage of regional availability which helped lower the cost of both proteins.

The cost for the classic meal was the most affordable in the South - $58.42, followed by the Northeast - $64.02, Midwest - $64.26 and West - $71.37. The expanded meal (classic meal plus ham, green beans and Russet potatoes) was the most affordable in the South - $74.90, followed by the Midwest - $81.53, Northeast - $82.76 and West - $88.55.

Despite an increase in price, shoppers can stretch their food dollars to get the most out of the items they are purchasing. Approximately one-third of human food produced in the world is either lost or wasted. Effectively utilizing food items creatively is one way shoppers can get the most out of their Thanksgiving meal this fall.

“Farmers and consumers share the responsibility of using our resources wisely,” said WFBF Director of Sustainability Communications and Partnerships Rachel Gerbitz. “You can reduce food waste at home by sticking to your grocery list, creatively repurposing leftovers or donating unopened, nonperishable food items to your local food pantry."