Survey: The cost of a Thanksgiving meal fell more than 4% this year

DES MOINES — Iowans who are heading to the grocery store this weekend to stock up for next week’s big feast will be pleased to hear they may actually be paying less to feed the family for Thanksgiving.

Christopher Pudenz, an economist for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, says they figured the average cost to prepare a traditional turkey dinner with all of the fixings for a family of ten at the table.

“This year’s expected costs for the Thanksgiving meal, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation survey, is $61.17,” Pudenz says. “Now this is a four-and-a-half percent decrease in the overall price from 2022, which was just a nickel over $64.”

The survey found the biggest price fluctuations were in 12-ounce bags of cranberries and half pints of whipping cream, which dropped 18-percent and 23-percent respectively, while a 12-pack of dinner rolls and pumpkin pie filling saw modest price increases of between three and four-percent.

“We saw decreases in seven of the 11 food items in terms of price, but the majority of that decrease from 2022 to 2023 had to do with declining turkey prices,” Pudenz says. “Turkey makes up between 40 and 45% of that cost in any given year.” Other items on the menu for the survey include: frozen pie crusts, whole milk, frozen peas, sweet potatoes and stuffing.

Overall food prices have risen about 25-percent since the beginning of 2020, according to Pudenz, who says inflation has continued to take a significant toll. Plus, he says, bird flu was a key factor in the price shifts.

“Turkey prices were particularly elevated last year due to a very long, severe, highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in 2022,” Pudenz says. “It was absolutely devastating to our turkey farmers out there in 2022, and in 2023, the flocks recovered.”

While there have been more outbreaks this fall, he says they haven’t been nearly as severe. Iowa is the nation’s seventh largest turkey producer with an estimated 12-million birds raised here each year.