Talking Turkey: Thanksgiving Dinner Cost is Lowest Since 2010

When somebody says "Let’s talk turkey," you never know what frank discussion will follow. The good news is that when you have the American Farm Bureau Federation talking turkey, the news seems to get better and better. That group's 33rd annual price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table says we're saving money once again this year.

The new American Farm Bureau report indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $48.90. That's a 22-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.12, and marks the third consecutive year that the overall cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined. It also marks the dinner's lowest price level since 2010.

The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at a total of $21.71 this year. That’s roughly $1.36 per pound, a decrease of 4-cents per pound, or a total of 70-cents per whole turkey, compared to 2017, according to Michigan Farm Bureau Livestock and Dairy Specialist, Ernie Birchmeier.

Birchmeier says, “This is a great opportunity for Michigan consumers to enjoy the bountiful harvest from Michigan agriculture,” and he adds, “There are many items found in the traditional Thanksgiving dinner that are grown right here in our great state."

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Birchmeier says, "We have a vibrant poultry and pork industry glad to supply the turkey and ham, our dairy industry is glad to serve up the butter for the rolls, mashed potatoes and as part of the baked goods." He goes on to say, "Of course, there’s always ice cream for the pumpkin pie! If it’s cranberries you prefer, they’re grown here as well. If stuffing is on your menu, Michigan’s wheat industry is proud to play a part and our vegetable industry is glad they can help serve up a little extra nutrition on your plate." Birchmeier goes so far as to say, "If you prefer a glass of grape juice or wine with your meal, our grape and wine industry is vibrant and growing. Personally, I’ll be washing my dinner down with a tall glass of cold milk, brought to you by our state’s dairy farmers.”

Birchmeier calls the state's agricultural community a great asset for all us, adding, “It’s truly a blessing to have such an abundance of food at such an affordable cost to American consumers. While we’re enjoying Thanksgiving with our families and loved ones, please take a moment to remember those that work every day to provide us with our incredible food supply; America’s farm and ranch families.”

According to the Michigan Ag Council, Michigan ranks 15th in the nation in turkey production and comprises 3-percent of the turkey industry by volume.  Additionally, according to Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, total annual turkey production in Michigan is 5.3 million birds, with an economic impact to the state totaling $100 million.

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey included:

  • Turkey
  • Bread stuffing
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Rolls with butter
  • Peas
  • Cranberries
  • A veggie tray
  • Pumpkin pie with whipped cream
  • Coffee and milk

All ingredients of the dinner were measure in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers. Plus, to capture the diversity in Thanksgiving meals across the U.S., prices were checked on a bone-in ham, green beans and Russet potatoes.

Nate Chesher is Marketing Manager with Michigan Potatoes. He asks, "“What’s Thanksgiving without the potatoes?” Michigan Potates is home to three distinct organizations working to grow an economically viable potato industry in Michigan. Chesher adds, “Thankfully Michigan is home to many local fresh potato growers providing the homegrown staple for every Thanksgiving table. Michigan potatoes are grown in over 40 counties across the state, from Iron Mountain to Sturgis and nearly everywhere in between. Our naturally pure water and pockets of sandy soil make the perfect growing conditions for the world’s best potatoes.”

Foods showing the largest decreases this year in addition to turkey, were:

  • A gallon of milk, $2.99
  • A dozen rolls, $2.26
  • 2 nine-inch pie shells, $2.45
  • A 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.52
  • A 1-pound bag of green peas, $1.53
  • A group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), $2.72

A total of 166 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 37 states for this year’s survey. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers were asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages.

Farm Bureau also surveyed the price of a traditional Thanksgiving meal available from popular food delivery services. That revealed that the convenience of food delivery does have a larger price tag. A 16-pound turkey was nearly 50-percent more expensive at nearly $2 per pound when purchased from a food delivery service. Nearly every individual item was more expensive compared to the Farm Bureau average and the total cost of the dinner was about 60-percent higher at about $8 per person.

The AFBF Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

So...enjoy your roll-back prices and Happy Thanksgiving!