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POCATELLO – The cost of a traditional Thanksgiving feast is up 14 percent this year on average across the country, with inflation being the main driver in the increase.

According to American Farm Bureau Federation’s 36th annual cost survey of traditional items found on a Thanksgiving Day dinner table, the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 people is $53.31.

That’s a substantial increase over last year’s total cost of $46.90.

Last year’s cost was down $2.01, or 4 percent, from 2019, according to the AFBF survey, which is calculated using more than 218 surveys completed with pricing data from all 50 states.

This year’s increase in the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal is the largest ever in the survey’s history.

The shopping list for AFBF’s informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, Russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk.

While conducting their surveys, Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.

According to AFBF economists, inflation is the main reason for the increase in the cost of this year’s Thanksgiving meal. COVID-related supply chain disruptions were another factor, as was the increasing difficulty in predicting demand. 

More food is also being consumed at home since the COVID outbreak began, which has resulted in a significant increase in demand for protein, according to the economists.

“There are a lot of factors at play here,” AFBF Economist Veronica Nigh said during a Nov. 18 media briefing on this year’s survey. “We’re seeing increased prices all along the supply chain.” 

Total turkey production in the United States was down 4 percent this year compared with last year and the amount of turkeys in cold storage in September was down 20 percent compared with the same time last year.

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation President Bryan Searle, a potato farmer from Shelley, said there is no sugar-coating the fact that the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal is up substantially this year.

But he also pointed out that food is still pretty affordable for Americans, especially compared with what people in other nations pay.

According to AFBF, Americans spend the least amount of their disposable income on food: 9 percent in 2020. Citizens in other countries spend far more. 

For example, in Brazil, people spent 17 percent of their disposable income on food in 2020 and in China they spent 22 percent. In Mexico, people spent 28 percent and in Vietnam and Bangladesh they spent 32 percent and 54 percent.

Even with the 14 percent increase, the average $53.31 cost for this year’s Thanksgiving feast for 10 people breaks down to $5.33 per person.

“Not to downplay the sting that American consumers are facing with increased food prices but to keep things in perspective, farmers are still farming and producing food, although the cost right now is a little bit higher,” Searle said.

Nigh stressed that American farmers and ranchers are continuing to produce plenty of food and fiber.

“There are no concerns about shortages,” she said. 

“The good news is that we have a very resilient farming sector and American farmers and ranchers are continuing to produce the most affordable and reliable food supply in the history of the world,” said IFBF CEO Zak Miller, who farms in St. Anthony.

The main reason for the increase in this year’s Thanksgiving feast is the cost of turkey, which, according to the surveys, rose 24 percent compared to 2020.

Not including turkey, the rest of the items included in the AFBF Thanksgiving meal survey were up a combined 6.6 percent compared with last year.

According to the survey, the average cost for a 5-pound bag of Russet potatoes increased 41 cents, or 16 percent. 

The only item that decreased in cost this year was stuffing.

Despite the increased price of this year’s meal, there are still plenty of turkeys and other traditional Thanksgiving feast food items available, Searle said.

“And there are plenty of Idaho’s most famous commodity – potatoes – still available as well,” he added.

Idaho ranks No. 1 in potato production in the U.S. and the state’s farmers produce about a third of the nation’s total spud supply.

AFBF economists pointed out that only about 8 percent of the total cost of a Thanksgiving meal this year is related to farmers’ production costs. The rest is related to costs associated with transportation, processing, packaging and other factors.

American Farm Bureau Federation economists also pointed out that it’s likely people who are shopping for Thanksgiving food items right now are getting discounts and other deals, which the Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers who helped conduct the survey did not. 

Because grocery stores have a lot of flexibility on what prices they charge for different food items, the actual cost that Americans pay for this year’s Thanksgiving feast could vary significantly depending on location and store.

The AFBF volunteer shoppers conducted their surveys from Oct. 26-Nov. 8.

“We hope people are able to get a better deal than our shoppers were able to get during the time they were out shopping,” Searle said.