There’s something to give thanks for when families gather together Thursday for their Thanksgiving meal: The American Farm Bureau Federation says the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is down this year compared to 2022, but the meal still reflects historically high costs.
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In a press release, the Farm Bureau wrote:
The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 38th annual survey provides a snapshot of the average cost of this year’s classic holiday feast for 10, which is $61.17 or less than $6.20 per person.
This is a 4.5% decrease from last year’s record-high average of $64.05, but a Thanksgiving meal is still 25% higher than it was in 2019, which highlights the impact high supply costs and inflation have had on food prices since before the pandemic.
The centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables – the turkey – helped bring down the overall cost of dinner. The average price for a 16-pound turkey is $27.35. That is $1.71 per pound, down 5.6% from last year.
The Farm Bureau’s Thanksgiving survey reflects the success of President Joe Biden’s economic policy, which is achieving a “soft landing” with the Federal Reserve raising interest rates to reduce inflation without triggering a recession.
But as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pointed out in an interview Monday on CNBC, the consistently higher prices for food and rent compared with pre-pandemic levels continue to negatively impact voters’ perception of Biden’s handling of the economy. An NBC News poll released Sunday showed that nearly 60% of registered voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy, while only 38% approve. Hopefully that perception changes over the next 12 months leading to Election Day.
In the CNBC interview, Yellen said:
“Although prices in general are rising less quickly, Americans still see increases in some important prices, including food, from where we were prior to the pandemic. And this remains notable to people who go to the store and shop.”
“So I do think we’re making considerable progress in bringing inflation down. But Americans do notice higher prices from what they used to be accustomed to.”
The overall inflation rate in the U.S. dropped to 3.2% in October, compared to 7.7% in October 2022. The food inflation rate peaked at 11.4% in August 2022, but has dropped to 3.3% in October 2023. CNBC reported that food prices were impacted by various factors ranging from the war in Ukraine’s impact on grain prices to restaurants charging higher prices for menu items.
And the cost of an average Thanksgiving dinner this year might have been even lower were it not for corporate greed. A pair of reports released by Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey linked food price increases to “greedflation.”
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The Farm Bureau conducted its survey by having “volunteer shoppers” check prices from Nov. 1-6 around the country. The cost of the typical Thanksgiving meal might actually be even lower now, according to the Farm Bureau, because supermarkets might have begun sharply lowering the price per pound of frozen turkeys since then.
The Farm Bureau said that according to USDA Agricultural Marketing Service data, the average per-pound feature price for whole frozen turkeys declined further during the second week of November. The AFBF press release said:
Traditionally, the turkey is the most expensive item on the Thanksgiving dinner table,” said AFBF Senior Economist Veronica Nigh. “Turkey prices have fallen thanks to a sharp reduction in cases of avian influenza, which have allowed production to increase in time for the holiday.”
Besides turkey, the Farm Bureau found that seven other items on its Thanksgiving shopping list also dropped in price: stuffing mix, frozen pie crusts, whipped cream, frozen peas, a gallon of whole milk, and fresh cranberries, to name a few. The prices for four items increased: dinner rolls, pumpkin pie mix, sweet potatoes, and a veggie tray of carrots and celery. The quantities were sufficient to serve 10 people with plenty of leftovers.
AFBF President Zippy Duvall summarized the survey’s findings:
“While shoppers will see a slight improvement in the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner, high inflation continues to hammer families across the country, including the nation’s farmers. Growing the food families rely on is a constant challenge for farmers because of high fuel, seed, fertilizer and transportation costs, just to name a few.”
But Duvall did express concern that Congress has yet to pass a new farm bill. The recently approved short-term government spending deal does extend funding for farm bill programs until the end of the year. Although Duvall did not cite who’s at fault for failing to extend the farm bill, The Hill put the blame squarely on divisions among House Republicans.
House Republicans want to increase subsidies for a few select crops—peanuts, cotton, and rice, which are largely grown in red states—while offsetting them by cutting food aid and diverting money from $20 billion previously allocated to conservation programs supported by Democrats, environmental groups, and many farm groups. Duvall stressed the importance of passing a new farm bill in the AFBF press release:
“While high food prices are a concern for every family, America still has one of the most affordable food supplies in the world. We’ve accomplished that, in part, due to strong farm bill programs. Although our focus is sharing time with family and friends this Thanksgiving, our thoughts also turn to encouraging Congress to double down on a commitment to passing a new farm bill with a modernized safety net to support those who raise the crops and livestock that supply Thanksgiving dinner and every dinner.”
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