According to the American Farm Bureau, a typical Thanksgiving feast for 10 is likely to cost American consumers $49.04 this year, representing a 44-cent price decrease from last year’s average of $49.48.
2013 marks the 28th year for the survey, which uses volunteer shoppers to scope out prices without using coupons or store specials.
"The cost of this year's meal, at less than $5 per serving, remains an excellent value for consumers," says AFBF President Bob Stallman. "America's farm and ranch families are honored to produce the food from our nation's land for family Thanksgiving celebrations."
The 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.
Turkey is king
The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at $21.76 this year. That was roughly $1.36 per pound, a decrease of about 3 cents per pound, or a total of 47 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2012, AFBF says.
The whole bird was the biggest contributor to the final total, showing the largest price decrease compared to last year.
"Most Americans will pay about the same as last year at the grocery store for a turkey and all the trimmings," noted AFBF deputy chief economist John Anderson. "Slightly higher turkey production for much of the year coupled with an increase in birds in cold storage may be responsible for the moderate price decrease our shoppers reported."
Some shoppers may pay even less for a frozen tom turkey compared to AFBF's 167 shoppers who checked prices at grocery stores in 34 states, if sales and promotions are utilized.
"Special sales and promotions on turkey and other holiday food items will continue right up to Thanksgiving," Anderson suggests. "If you have the patience to wait until the last minute to buy a turkey you might come home with an exceptional bargain."
Other trimmings post declines, too
In addition to the turkey, other items that declined in price included a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.18; one pound of green peas, $1.54; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.67; fresh cranberries, $2.42; a half pint of whipping cream, $1.85; and two nine-inch pie shells, $2.49.
Items that showed a moderate price increase from last year included three pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.36; one gallon of whole milk, $3.66; and a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.10.
In addition, a combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal – onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter – increased to $3.20. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery increased to 81 cents.
Average cost remains the same
The average cost of the dinner has remained around $49 since 2011. Further, Anderson noted that despite retail price increases during the last year or so, American consumers have enjoyed relatively stable food costs in general over the years, particularly when adjusted for inflation.
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 1% increase compared to a year ago.
The survey shows similar results to a survey released this week by Purdue University economists, which suggested that Thanksgiving dinner with trimmings would be roughly the same price as last year.