Farm Bureau survey shows that classic Thanksgiving dinner costs more in 2011

INDIANAPOLIS – The retail cost of menu items for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner including turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and all the usual trimmings increased by nearly 8 percent this year, according to an informal survey of grocery store prices conducted by Indiana Farm Bureau. The survey, which has been conducted annually in Indiana since 1993, indicated that the cost for this year’s feast for 10 is $49.38, up from $45.80 in 2010. Indiana’s survey data is factored into a national market basket survey coordinated by the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the national survey also recorded an increase, rising from $43.47 in 2010 to $49.20 in 2011. “The cost of this year’s meal is under $5 per person, so it’s still a bargain,” said IFB 2nd Vice President Isabella Chism, who farms with her husband in Howard County. “Our farm families feel honored and blessed to be able to produce the bounty that is celebrated at Thanksgiving.” The 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. Neither the national nor the Indiana surveys are scientific. They are instead snapshots of prices on basic items during a given period. The survey is conducted by volunteers who pick a grocery story in their area and collect prices for specific items. They are asked to look for the best possible prices but not to use promotional coupons or purchase deals such as “Spend $50 and receive a free turkey.” Twenty-six volunteers participated in the Indiana survey, while 141 volunteer shoppers participated in the national survey. Almost all of the increase (in both the Indiana and AFBF surveys) can be attributed to the increase in the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving feasts, the turkey. The Indiana survey indicated that turkey increased by 20 cents per pound for a total of $23.68.“Turkey prices are higher this year primarily due to strong consumer demand both here in the U.S. and globally,” said John Anderson, an AFBF senior economist. In addition, “The era of grocers holding the line on retail food cost increases is basically over,” Anderson explained. “Retailers are being more aggressive about passing on higher costs for shipping, processing and storing food to consumers, although turkeys may still be featured in special sales and promotions close to Thanksgiving. “Although we’ll pay a bit more this year, on a per-person basis, our traditional Thanksgiving feast remains a better value than most fast-food value meals, plus it’s a wholesome, home-cooked meal,” Anderson said. Other items that increased on the Indiana survey were pumpkin pie filling, which rose by 39 cents for a 30-ounce can to $3.11; whole milk, up by 32 cents/gallon to $3.15; a 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries, up by 15 cents to $2.47; a half-pint of whipping cream, up by 5 cents to $1.87; and stuffing, which rose by 2 cents to $2.50 for a 14-ounce bag.“Demand for U.S. dairy products has been strong throughout the year and continues to influence retail prices, as demand for higher-quality food products grows globally,” Anderson said. Several items went down in price, notably rolls, which dropped by 26 cents/dozen to $1.86. Smaller decreases were also recorded for a combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter), which dropped by 12 cents to $3.10; a two-pack of pie shells, down 6 cents to $2.39; frozen peas, down 5 cents to $1.46 for a 16-ounce package; 3 pounds of sweet potatoes, down 3 cents to $2.94; and a 1-pound relish tray of carrots and celery, down 3 cents to 85 cents.