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Is there a turkey shortage? How much will Thanksgiving cost?


First of all, remain calm. Despite a spate of breathless headlines about apocalyptic shortages, chances are good you will have no problem finding a turkey to grace your Thanksgiving table this year.

But, jumbo-size birds may be a bit in short supply and, regardless of how many friends and family members you’re planning on feeding for the holiday, the whole spread is going to set you back about 20% more than it did last year.

That’s according to results from the 37th annual American Farm Bureau Thanksgiving Dinner cost survey released on Wednesday.

What’s driving up the cost of Thanksgiving dinner this year?

Avian flu outbreaks, higher feed costs and smaller commercial flocks have driven the cost of turkeys up this year, and the Farm Bureau report, using national data gathered from Oct. 18-31, found prices averaging $1.81 per pound, up 21% from last year. At that turkey price, the Farm Bureau estimates a typical Thanksgiving meal for 10 this year will cost $64.05, up more than $10 from last year’s $53.31 and about $17 above 2020’s $46.90.

Utah and other Western states will have the highest average Thanksgiving-for-10 costs this year at $71.37 with Southern states the most affordable with an average $58.42 for the meal, according to the report.

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

But, the bureau’s report also included updated information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service that found prices have been on the decline so far this month and “feature prices” on whole frozen turkeys were down to 95 cents a pound for the week of Nov. 3-9.

While turkey prices are coming down ahead of the big bird’s big day, ongoing inflation will impact the entire menu, regardless of the feature dish.

“General inflation slashing the purchasing power of consumers is a significant factor contributing to the increase in the average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” American Farm Bureau Federation Chief Economist Roger Cryan said in a statement that accompanied the report. “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.”

Cryan also noted 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.

Getting your gobble-gobble on shouldn’t be a problem

In a report released last month by Texas A&M Today, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist David Anderson said he was not concerned about a shortage of whole birds for the holidays.

He explained that stocked turkey supplies build throughout the year to make sure they are available to major grocers in November. Most grocers have order contracts with suppliers that are set up to a year in advance. Demand from big buyers like major grocers will be the priority when it comes to the available supplies.

Anderson said cold storage stocks of whole turkeys are about 3% lower than last year according to USDA cold storage stocks data, which indicates suppliers are working to meet holiday demand. While the data shows about 13% fewer tom turkeys in storage, there are about 12% more hens in storage.

The price of whole turkeys could be higher at grocery stores, he said, but grocers may also take losses on whole birds as features or specials to entice consumers into stores in the hopes they continue shopping for other items.

“As a consumer, it might be a good idea to have a strategy this year,” Anderson said. “Last year, when prices were high, I went to the store the first day because we wanted a particular size. The store had specials on them then, but then I saw a store had a terrific deal on turkeys the day before Thanksgiving. They had turkeys still on hand and needed to move them, and that translated into lower prices.”





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