Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Decline Slightly

Meal for 10 costs 3.5% less than 2011's high.

Published on: Nov 27, 2013

Wisconsinites will have one more thing to be thankful for when they sit down to eat their turkey dinner this year. The cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner will be slightly lower than last year.

That's the finding of Wisconsin Farm Bureau's annual Thanksgiving price survey of traditional items like turkey, cube stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie for a gathering of 10. This year's average price of $48.40 is 48 cents (1%) less than last year and $1.77 less (3.5%) than two years ago. The 2011 price of $50.17 was the highest average since Farm Bureau members began their Thanksgiving survey in 1992.

"When the survey's total price is divided by 10, it shows that the cost to prepare a nutritious, home-cooked Thanksgiving meal for 10 people is $4.84 each," said Amy Manske, Wisconsin Farm Bureau's Communications Coordinator. "A wholesome family feast remains a better deal than a trip through the drive-thru."

Wisconsins average price for a 16-pound turkey came in at $22.40. Thats down 3.45% since 2011 when it was $23.20.
Wisconsin's average price for a 16-pound turkey came in at $22.40. That's down 3.45% since 2011 when it was $23.20.

The American Farm Bureau Federation's national survey of the same items (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 milk and coffee, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10) averaged $49.04 (a 1.3% difference from Wisconsin's).

"In 2011 the amount of turkey in cold storage was at a historic low which drove turkey prices higher and caused the survey's total price to rise," Manske said. "Since then food prices have generally stabilized."

Wisconsin's average price for a 16-pound turkey came in at $22.40. That's down 3.45% since 2011 when it was $23.20.

"Turkeys are typically featured in special sales and promotions close to Thanksgiving," Manske said. "While our survey was conducted in October, those shoppers who wait until the days before Thanksgiving to buy their bird will likely get a bargain."

Talking turkey

A trend of strong demand for U.S. turkey both here and abroad has continued over the past decade. Americans will consume nearly 46 million turkeys this Thanksgiving, and lead the world in annual turkey consumption. Turkey's popularity expands beyond our borders. Mexico buys over half of its turkeys from the U.S. annually, making it the leading foreign customer. Other top importers of U.S. turkeys are China, Hong Kong, Canada and the Dominican Republic.

Farmer's share is $7.74

Over the last three decades retail grocery prices have gradually increased while the share of the average dollar spent on food that farm families receive has dropped. In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures in grocery stores and restaurants. Since then that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Using that percentage across the board, the farmer's share of this year's $48.40 Thanksgiving meal would be $7.74.

"From the potatoes to turkey to cranberries, Wisconsin's farm families are proud to produce much of the food that is the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving celebrations," Manske said. "During this holiday season, Farm Bureau is encouraging farmers to reach out to consumers in-person or through social media, to answer questions about the food they grow or the livestock and poultry they raise."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Americans will spend approximately 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food this year, the lowest average in the world.

About the survey

The Thanksgiving price survey is an annual look at the trends in food prices in Wisconsin in relation to changing farm prices, weather and wholesale and retail food marketing. Members of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau collected price samples of 12 Thanksgiving food items in 21 communities in October.

Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends.

                                                            Wis. 2012          Wis. 2013          National 2013

Turkey, 16 lbs.                                       22.72               22.40                21.76
Milk, 1 gallon whole                               3.61                  3.67                  3.66
Cream, half pint                                      1.50                 1.58                  1.85
Rolls, 12                                               1.93                  2.10                  2.18
Relish tray (1 lb. carrots-celery)              .68                    .69                    .81
Fresh cranberries, 12 oz.                        2.51                  2.30                  2.42
Pumpkin pie mix, 30 oz.                        3.05                  2.91                  3.10
Pie shells (2)                                         2.25                  2.29                  2.49
Cube stuffing, 14 oz.                              2.84                 2.75                  2.67
Sweet potatoes, 3 lbs.                            3.03                 2.88                  3.36
Green peas, 1 lb.                                   1.58                  1.63                  1.54
Misc. ingredients                                    3.18                 3.20                  3.20

                        TOTAL                         $48.88              $48.40              $49.04

The Thanksgiving price survey is an informal measure of prices at grocery stores in Wisconsin. The prices reported reflect variations in communities and retailers. The prices reported are not validated by any outside source. Prices were collected for this survey in the communities of Appleton, Ashland, Beloit, Boscobel, Cross Plains, Eau Claire, Ellsworth, Fond du Lac, Hillsboro, Manitowoc, Marshfield, Middleton, New London, Oconto Falls, Platteville, Plover, Richland Center, Shawano, Sparta, West Bend and West Salem. 

Source: Wisconsin Farm Bureau