MACON, Ga. – The national average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 10 increased less than 1 percent this year from last, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) 29th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner Price Survey. The informal survey, conducted from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 by 179 volunteer shoppers from 35 states, shows the national retail cost of menu items for a classic Thanksgiving dinner is $49.41, a 37-cent price increase from last year’s average of $49.04. That makes the cost per person $4.94, less than the cost of most fast-food meals.
A total of 22 shoppers from across Georgia participated in this year’s survey. The average cost for a Thanksgiving meal in Georgia came in at $47.72, which is $1.69 less than the national average.
The shopping list for the AFBF survey included the following items in quantities sufficient to serve 10 people with plenty of leftovers: turkey, bread stuffing, cranberries, green peas, rolls, a relish tray of carrots and celery, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and beverages of whole milk and coffee.
Survey participants were asked to look for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals. Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data but uses it as an informal gauge of price trends across the nation.
The national average price of the big-ticket item – a 16-pound whole turkey – came in at $21.65 this year, contributing the most to the cost of the meal, but 11 cents less than last year. The Georgia shoppers paid an average of $20.16 for a 16-pound turkey.
“Turkey production has been somewhat lower this year and wholesale prices are a little higher, but consumers should find an adequate supply of birds at their local grocery store,” AFBF Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson said, adding that some grocers may use turkeys as “loss leaders,” a common strategy deployed to entice shoppers to come through the doors and buy other popular Thanksgiving foods.
“The biggest price increase I saw was for the turkey, but I know stores offer better prices on turkeys and several of the other menu items the week of Thanksgiving,” said Georgia survey participant Charlotte Wingate, who completed the survey at a local grocery store in her hometown of Moultrie on Nov. 11. “With the average national cost of the meal $49.41, that makes the cost per person only $4.94, which is less than the cost of most fast-food meals and much less than a Thanksgiving buffet meal.”
Nationally, foods showing the largest increases this year were sweet potatoes, dairy products and pumpkin pie mix. Sweet potatoes came in at $3.56 for three pounds. A half pint of whipping cream was $2; one gallon of whole milk, $3.76; and a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.12. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery ($.82) and one pound of green peas ($1.55) also increased in price. A combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) rose to $3.48.
The Georgia shoppers paid less on average for sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie mix, whipping cream, rolls, stuffing and pie shells. The national average cost for three pounds of sweet potatoes was $3.56 while Georgia shoppers paid an average of $3.09. The national average cost for a package of two 9-inch pie shells was $2.42 while Georgia shoppers paid an average of $2.19. The national average cost for a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.12 while Georgia shoppers paid an average of $2.91.
On average, the Georgia shoppers paid more for a one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery, a one-pound bag of frozen peas and 12 ounces of fresh cranberries than the national average. The national average cost for the relish tray was 82 cents while Georgia shoppers paid an average of $1.42. The national average cost for a one-pound bag of frozen green peas was $1.55 while Georgia shoppers paid an average of $1.76. The national average cost for a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries was $2.34 while Georgia shoppers paid an average of $2.48. The national average cost for a gallon of whole milk was $3.76 while Georgia shoppers paid an average of $3.79.
The national average cost of the dinner has remained around $49 since 2011. The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home, which indicates a 3-percent increase compared to a year ago.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. consumers spend just 10 percent of their disposable income on food each year. In comparison, Italian consumers spend 15 percent, Polish consumers spend 20 percent, Philippine consumers spend 36 percent and consumers in Cameroon spend 47 percent.
Founded in 1937, Georgia Farm Bureau is the state’s largest general farm organization. Its volunteer members actively participate in local, district and state activities that promote agriculture awareness to their non-farming neighbors.