As inflation bites, Americans celebrate the most expensive Thanksgiving in history

The cost of a traditional turkey-based meal has skyrocketed by 20% in just one year, according to industry experts

Turkeys on display at a supermarket in Glenview, Illinois.
Turkeys on display at a supermarket in Glenview, Illinois.Nam Y. Huh (AP)

Inflation is not sparing even the most popular holiday in the United States. The traditional Thanksgiving dinner, held on the fourth Thursday of November, will be significantly more expensive this year. The cost of a typical menu, which already rose 14% in 2021, has gone up by another 20% this year. Eating turkey is now more expensive than ever.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), a farm industry insurer, has been measuring the cost of a Thanksgiving meal since 1986. It includes the price of 12 ingredients, starting with the turkey and including cranberries, peas, dinner rolls, whipping cream, whole milk, sweet potatoes, cube stuffing and more.

According to their calculations, the combined cost of the ingredients has risen in one year from an average of $53.31 to $64.05, factoring in enough food for 10 people. This represents a 20% increase in addition to the 14% increase already experienced in 2021. Even so, the average cost of $6.40 per diner will not dissuade the vast majority of Americans from celebrating a Thanksgiving dinner the traditional way.

The cost of a turkey, which has skyrocketed in the last two years, accounts for 45% of the total. A 16-pound turkey has gone from $23.99 to $28.96, an increase of 21% year-on-year and 49% since 2020. The AFBF calculates an average price, although there are wide disparities between differents parts of the country and also depending on the time of purchase.

Of the 12 ingredients that were analyzed, only the 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries has dropped in price, down 14% to $2.57.

The rise in the cost of Thanksgiving ingredients is greater than that of prices in general, which have moved between 7% and 9% year-on-year in recent months. Inflation dipped slightly in October to 7.7%, but the price of food consumed at home is up 12.6% year-on-year according to the Consumer Price Index.

“Other contributing factors to the increased cost for the meal include supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine,” said AFBF Chief Economist Roger Cryan in a statement. “The higher retail turkey cost at the grocery store can also be attributed to a slightly smaller flock this year, increased feed costs and lighter processing weights.”

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