Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Up Slightly This Year

AFBF's 20th Thanksgiving dinner survey found the average cost for 10 people is $36.78, a $1.10 increase from last year's survey. Compiled by staff

Published on: Nov 17, 2005

In a week, millions of people will gather together to eat the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings. An annual survey done by the American Farm Bureau Federation found that the price of those basic items will cost an average of $36.78 for 10 people.

This year's price average is $1.10 more from last year's survey average of $35.68.

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10.

The cost of a 16-pound turkey, at $15.11 or roughly 94 cents per pound, reflects an increase of 5 cents per pound, or a total of 88 cents per turkey compared to 2004. This is the largest contributor to the overall increase in the cost of the 2005 Thanksgiving dinner.

"To the extent there was a small increase in the nominal cost of the Thanksgiving dinner, up 3% from 2004, most of it can be attributed to higher energy prices which affect processing, packaging, refrigeration and shipping costs," says AFBF Senior Economist Terry Francl. "Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spend $50 and receive a free turkey. The average price of turkey remains less than a dollar per pound again this year, an amazing value any way you slice it," says Francl.

According to Francl, data available from the Agriculture Department on last year's whole, frozen turkey indicates that four out of five turkeys were sold on a holiday special. Based on those advertised specials, USDA found that the prices paid for whole, frozen turkeys in November 2004 were two-thirds of what consumers paid for the same turkeys during the other 11 months of the year. That means many consumers probably purchase Thanksgiving turkeys for considerably less than the AFBF survey's average.

Other items showing a slight price increase this year included: a gallon of whole milk, $3.09; a 30-oz. can of pumpkin pie mix, $1.86; a 16-oz. package of frozen green peas, $1.38; a 12-oz. package of cubed stuffing, $2.27; two 9-inch pie shells, $1.89; and a 12-oz. package of brown-n-serve rolls, $1.64. The price of a combined pound of celery and carrots, used for a relish tray, increased to 59 cents.

Items that decreased slightly in price this year were: sweet potatoes, $2.56 for three pounds; fresh cranberries, $1.84 for a 12-oz. package; and a half-pint of whipping cream at $1.51.

A combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter), increased by 14 cents to $3.04.

Francl says throughout the years, Americans have enjoyed very stable food costs. "The inflation-adjusted cost of a Thanksgiving dinner has hovered within a few cents of $20 for the past 15 years. This is indicative of the continued ability of American farmers to provide safe and wholesome food products in a very efficient and cost-effective manner," he says.

Bargain shoppers in all areas should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, are increasingly available at some supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $40 to $50, providing another option for busy families.

The AFBF survey was first conducted in 1986 when the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal for a family of 10 was $28.74. This year's actual cost of $36.78 is $19.04 in 1986 inflation-adjusted dollars. While Farm Bureau does not make any statistical claims about the data, it is a gauge of price trends around the nation. A total of 108 volunteer shoppers from 30 states participated in this year's survey. Farm Bureau's survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.