The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Price Update of the Holiday Meal

Price Update of the Holiday Meal

Shoppers and Trends

November 25, 2012

Consumers can expect to pay slightly more for their Thanksgiving feast this year than last year, says a new report from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). The AFBF has been tracking the price of a typical holiday meal for 27 years. This year’s feast, which consists of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the basic trimmings will come to $49.48 for 10 people – a mere 28-cent price increase from last year’s average of $49.20.

The same meal cost $43.47 in 2010, and $42.91 in 2009. That larger than normal increase between 2010 and 2011 (about 13%) was due to a boom in crop and livestock prices last year, which pushed up the cost of almost everything on the list. 

This year, it’s turkeys that are up in price. A 16-pound turkey came in at $22.23 this year, at roughly $1.39 per pound. That’s an increase of about 4 cents per pound – and 66 cents per whole turkey – compared to 2011 – though savvy shoppers may pass less for frozen birds. AFBF says a slight demand increase for turkey is upping the price a bit for the birds.

“Demand for turkey increases in the fall because of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Prices of competing meat products are high which means that consumers who normally purchase a ham or beef products might consider buying turkey because turkey has a more competitive price,” says Todd Davis.

Other items contributing to this year’s increase in price included coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter). Those ingredients increased to $3.18. A dozen brown-n-serve rolls increased slightly this year too, up 3 cents to $2.33.

“Demand for eggs and dairy products are slightly increased from last year. These prices have been increasing at a rate of 2 to 3 percent over last year,” says Davis.

Items going down in price, however, included a half pint of whipping cream, $1.83, down 13 cents; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.77, down 11 cents; three pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.15, down 11 cents; one gallon of whole milk, $3.59, down 7 cents; fresh cranberries, $2.45, down 3 cents; one pound of green peas, $1.66, down 2 cents; and a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix and two nine-inch pie shells, $5.53, down 2 cents. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery remained the same at 76 cents. 

The AFBF has been tracking Thanksgiving dinner costs since 1986. Back then, a typical feast ran $28.74 – 42% less than today’s dinner. When today’s meal is adjusted for inflation, however, the 1986 meal costs more. 

“Looking back at previous surveys and adjusting the prices for inflation, the cost of this 10-serving meal since 2000 has been $18 to $22 dollars (inflation adjusted). The $18 to $22 inflation adjusted cost is less than the cost of this meal when the survey was started in 1986,” says Davis.

Inflation aside, prices do tend to go up slightly annually, but the overall deal remains a good one, says Davis. The cost of the 10-serving Thanksgiving meal defined in the survey has been very stable in price from last year at less than $5 per serving.

“That is a remarkable value for the American consumer,” says Davis.