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Turkey dinner will cost more

November 13, 2008 | 11:49 am


An annual survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation has found that the classic Thanksgiving dinner including turkey, stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie will cost more this year.

The "informal" price survey of foods served on Thanksgiving Day pegged the average cost of this year's feast for 10 at $44.61, an increase of $2.35, or 5.6%, from last year.

The cost of a 16-pound turkey, at $19.09 or about $1.19 per pound, reflects an increase of 9 cents per pound, or a total of $1.46 per turkey compared to 2007, the Farm Bureau said. Turkey makes up the largest increase in the cost of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

"Food prices rode the energy price roller coaster up during the first half of 2008, and as the year winds down, energy prices have moderated somewhat but food prices have not come down," said Jim Sartwelle, a farm bureau economist. "Despite that, the components of this classic Thanksgiving dinner cost less compared to 1988, when the effects of inflation are removed. Even at these slightly higher prices, the cost per person for this special meal remains lower than what Americans pay for most 'value meals' at fast-food outlets."

The survey looks at prices for turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, as well as coffee and milk.

Other items showing a price increase this year were:

a 12-ounce package of brown-n-serve rolls, $2.20; a 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries, $2.46; a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $2.34; two 9-inch pie shells, $2.26; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.57; a relish tray of carrots and celery, 82 cents; a half-pint of whipping cream, $1.70; a pound of green peas, $1.58; and three pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.12.

Prices for coffee, milk, onions, eggs, sugar, flour and butter have dropped since last year.

Sartwelle said this year's average cost of $44.61 is equivalent to $20.65 in 20-year inflation-adjusted dollars. The real dollar cost of the Thanksgiving dinner has declined more than 8% since 1988, according to Sartwelle.

For more information on food prices, check out the organization's quarterly market basket food surveys (available online at http://newsroom.fb.org) and the federal government’s Consumer Price Index (available online at http://data.bls.gov/).

How the survey was done: 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 spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. A total of 179 volunteer shoppers from 38 states participated in this year’s survey. The Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

-- Jerry Hirsch