This year’s Thanksgiving dinner on average will cost 13 percent more than it did in 2010. The price of the traditional holiday meal for 10 people will average $49.20, an increase from $43.47 in 2010, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). That’s the biggest increase since 1990, as the cost of sweet potatoes, rolls, stuffing and whipped cream rose in 2011. The classic Thanksgiving meal totals approximately $5 per person.
Bad weather and soaring commodity prices are two reasons that have caused an increase in food and beverage prices. On Thanksgiving Day, a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix will cost 16 percent more than it did last year. A pound of frozen green peas will cost 17 percent more, while the cost of a gallon of milk will climb 13 percent.
The turkey itself will be the biggest item. A 16-pound turkey is expected to cost approximately $21.57, or 22 percent more than in 2010. Economists said the leap is a result of strong demand in the U.S. and abroad. “Retailers are being more aggressive about passing on higher costs for shipping, processing and storing food to consumers,” John Anderson, a senior economist with the group, said. The report, which the federation says is “an informal gauge of price trends around the nation,” is the latest in a series that date back to 1986. Back then, Thanksgiving dinner cost $28.74.
“Our informal survey is a good barometer of the rising trend in food prices this year,” Anderson said. “We are starting to see the supply response to higher prices, but there are substantial lags.”
Thanksgiving dinner costs have increased at a faster pace than food inflation; the government forecasts prices will increase 3.5 to 4.5 percent this year, the fastest rate since 2008. Rising commodity and energy prices boosted the cost of food by 6.3 percent in September compared with the same timeframe of 2010, according to Census Bureau data. “The era of grocers holding the line on retail-food cost increases is basically over,” Anderson said. “The worst of the price inflation may be ending, and we should see a moderation in 2012.”
At a time when global food prices tracked by the United Nations fell 9.1 percent from a high point in February, Americans are paying record prices, including on hams, ground beef, bread, flour and cheese. World food costs are 68 percent higher than five years ago after bad weather the past three years hampered global production gains. “We are still in a period of accelerating food inflation that may begin to moderate in 2012,” Alexander said. “Consumers are getting a double whammy. It costs more to get to work, and they have less disposable income to spend on other things after they go to the grocery store.”
A total of 141 volunteers from 35 states participated in this year’s project. The dinner menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to assure consistent price comparisons. “A dinner for 10 at under $5 a head is still a bargain,” Anderson said. “The average American household still spends less on food than any other nation in the world.”