From the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF):
The retail cost of menu items for a classic Thanksgiving dinner including turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the basic trimmings increased less than 1 percent this year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).
AFBF’s 27th annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.48, a 28-cent price increase from last year’s average of $49.20.
“At just under $5 per person, the cost of this year’s meal remains a bargain,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Texas. “Our diverse farm and ranch families are honored to produce the food from our nation’s land for family Thanksgiving celebrations. During this holiday season, I am encouraging farmers and ranchers to reach out to consumers in-person or through social media, to answer questions about the food that they grow or the livestock and poultry they raise.”
The AFBF survey shopping list includes 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 coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.
The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at $22.23 this year. That was roughly $1.39 per pound, an increase of about 4 cents per pound, or a total of 66 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2011. The whole bird was the biggest contributor to the final total, showing the largest price increase compared to last year.
“Thanksgiving Dinner is a special meal that people look forward to all year,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. “Most Americans will pay about the same as last year at the grocery store for a turkey and all the trimmings. A slight increase in demand for turkey is responsible for the moderate price increase our shoppers reported for the bird,” he said.
1. Compared to last year’s cost of $49.20 for a complete classic Thanksgiving dinner, this year’s cost is only 0.57% (and 24 cents) higher at $49.48 (see red line in chart). Even though turkey went up this year by 3% compared to last year, almost all of the other items decreased in price since 2011 by an average of more than 2%: whipping cream (-6.6%), stuffing (-3.8%), potatoes (-3.4%), milk (-1.9%), cranberries (-1.2%), peas (-1.2%), pumpkin pie mix (-0.33%) and pie shells (-0.40%).
2. Adjusted for inflation, the cost of a classic Thanksgiving dinner for ten this year is 1.40% cheaper than last year (see blue line in chart).
3. Compared to the inflation-adjusted cost of more than $60 in 1986, today’s classic turkey dinner for ten is 17.6% cheaper.
4. Measured in time worked at the average hourly wage for all private workers of $23.58 in October 2012, the “time cost” of this year’s classic turkey dinner for ten is only 2.10 hours, down slightly from 2.12 hours last year.
5. Cost conscious shoppers can buy the same classic Thanksgiving meal at Walmart for only $36.72 (see top chart above), a savings of more than 25 percent compared to the AFBF national average, according to this press release from Walmart. In hours of time worked at the average hourly wage, that would be a “time cost “of only 1.56 hours for a holiday feast for ten at Walmart, an amazing bargain.
6. It’s not just the cost of the classic Thanksgiving dinner that has remained so affordable over time, spending on food for Americans in general has gotten more and more affordable over time, relative to our income. The bottom chart above shows that total spending on all food consumed at home in 2012 will be less than 7 percent of the total disposable income for Americans. In comparison, Americans in 1970 spent twice as much of their disposable income on food (14%), and in 1950 Americans spent almost three times as much on food at home as a share of income (19.7%).
Bottom Line: The fact that the average American family can celebrate Thanksgiving with a classic turkey feast for ten people for less than $50 and at a “time cost” of only 2.1 hours of work for one person (and only 1.56 hours for Walmart shoppers) means that we really have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving: an abundance of cheap, affordable food. Relative to our income, food has been more affordable in recent years than at any time in history.
Update: Here are USDA data on food expenditures, they are reporting in Table 7 that spending on food at home as a share of disposable personal income was only 5.7% in 2011. Keep in mind that the calculation is based on total expenditures on food at home ($660 billion) as a share of total personal disposable income ($11,593 billion).