Americans have one more thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. The cost of the average Thanksgiving meal rose just 0.8 percent this year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual informal price survey.
The price of feeding a group of 10 ticked up just 37 cents to $49.41—even amid a sharp increase in dairy and many meat costs and a decline in turkey production.
“We’re kind of on the low end of expectations with this year’s result,” said John Anderson, deputy chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation, during a phone interview.
Typical price increases are more in the 1.5 to 2 percent range.
The basket’s 0.8 percent increase is a fraction of the 3.2 percent rise in the CPI’s food-at-home index for the 12 months ended in September.
Percentage wise, the price of the basket’s miscellaneous items including butter and eggs rose the most at 8.8 percent. The jump in whipping cream was close-by at 8.1 percent. Sweet potatoes were also sharply higher, jumping 6 percent.
The bird itself, the largest cost by far, actually dropped marginally in price despite turkey production dropping to its lowest level in nearly 30 years. This helped keep the basket in check.
“Probably the most important item is the one that didn’t really move a lot,” Anderson said. “It’s the big ticket item, and it drives a lot of what typically happens in this market basket.”
This suggests that grocers are heading off prices increases to get customers in the door, he added. The recent drop in energy prices also makes it easier to keep retail prices stable.
“Everything that is in your local grocery store got hauled in from something else,” he said about energy’s impact. “It’s used to keep warm things warm and cool things cool.”
Dairy prices were higher across the board amid increased demand, Anderson said. Cubed stuffing, fresh cranberries, rolls and pie shells also became cheaper.
While the Thanksgiving dinner cost rose marginally, Anderson stressed that that it’s still affordable.
“If you break this down by serving, you’re looking at less than $5 (per) person,” he added.