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Pass the drumstick -- and wallet; Thanksgiving meals to cost more

November 10, 2011 | 12:24 pm

Turkeys

Add this to the nation’s economic indigestion: The cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner will rise by 13% this year, the biggest increase in the 26 years of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s informal price survey.

This year, the average cost of a meal for 10 is expected to be $49.20, up $5.73 from last year, the trade group reported.

Turkey gobbled up a good chunk of the price increase. A 16-pound bird will cost $21.57 this year, up more than 22% from last year.

For starters, demand for turkey is up, John Anderson, the farm bureau’s senior economist, said in an interview.

Turkey production is also up, in spite of increased production costs, he said, but "increase in supply has not kept pace with the growth in demand." U.S. turkey exports are projected to increase as well, he said.

Sherrie Rosenblatt of the National Turkey Federation said in an interview that feed prices have increased. But, she added: "There's still a bargain to be had when it comes to purchasing a Thanksgiving turkey.''

Indeed, the farm bureau noted that its volunteer shoppers look for the best prices without taking advantage of promotions or coupons.

The shopping list for the informal survey, conducted by 141 volunteer shoppers, 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.

"Retailers are being more aggressive about passing on higher costs for shipping, processing and storing food to consumers, although turkeys may still be featured in special sales and promotions close to Thanksgiving," Anderson said in a statement attached to the survey.

The survey found that the price for a gallon of whole milk had increased by 42 cents to $3.66. A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.03, up 41 cents. A pound of green peas was $1.68, up 24 cents; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.88, up 24 cents; a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.30, up 18 cents; three pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.26, up 7 cents; and fresh cranberries, $2.48, up 7 cents.

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 -- Richard Simon in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Turkeys are raised in a pen at the Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff, N.J. Credit: Scott Eells / Bloomberg

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