The average cost of the traditional Thanksgiving meal this year is pennies less than in 2016, according to Arkansas Farm Bureau’s 32nd annual survey of food items typically included in the feast.
It will cost $44.58 for a family of 10, or $4.58 per person, to enjoy the dinner. That’s just 26-cents lower than last year’s average of $44.84 and 67-cents lower than 2015.
The statewide average is based on responses from members of the Farm Bureau Women’s Committee and other volunteers who surveyed food prices at 11 grocery stores and supermarkets across the state. They were asked to report the “best instore price” of 12 items included in the meal and are allowed to take advantage of advertised specials, excluding discount coupons and purchase requirements.
Arkansas food prices continue to remain more affordable than elsewhere. American Farm Bureau’s national survey of price trends for the holiday feast revealed an average of $49.12.
“America continues to be blessed with an abundant food supply and, as we do each Thanksgiving, many families and charitable organizations will share the meal with those who are not as fortunate,” Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach said in a news release. “That is truly reason to give thanks.”
Veach said the fact consumers continue to enjoy the holiday meal for less than $5 a person, on average, is a result of the efficiency of the nation’s food production system.
“Despite the fact many Arkansas farmers had to again overcome the effects of flooding in the spring and delayed planting for many, because of their reliance on the latest research and technological advances, they are able to hold down their cost of production,” Veach said.
Though unscientific, the survey is intended to be a snapshot of actual prices across Arkansas and the nation. The survey period was Oct.27 - Nov. 7. The shopping list has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow consistent price comparisons.
Travis Justice, chief economist for Arkansas Farm Bureau, attributes the slight drop in price to further reductions in the cost of the key items in the menu.
“Overall food-price inflation has remained below 1 percent annually for the past two years,” Justice said. “Stable financial markets, below average returns on most farm commodities — especially on several of the items captured in the survey — and record level meat production for the past three years have contributed to the slightly lower survey results.”
“Nationally, turkey prices are well below recent year levels. The higher price for the turkey in our in-state survey is likely a reflection on retailer margin differences and capturing the prices ahead of traditional pre-Thanksgiving discounting,” Justice said.
“Favorable growing conditions throughout most of the country have allowed supplies of most fruit and vegetable crops to remain plentiful. That, combined with the fact food-price inflation has remained at modest levels has provided relative stability in energy prices and certainly played a role in keeping retail food costs low.”
The average cost of a gallon of whole milk dropped 21 cents to $3.01, while one-half pint of whipping cream was down 50 cents to $1.84. At the same time, the average price of a 16-pound young tom turkey increased slightly to $17.29 ($1.08 per pound), compared to $16.12 last year. American Farm Bureau’s national survey reported an average of $22.38 or $1.40 per pound.
Also contributing to the lower price for the meal were drops in price for 3-pounds of sweet potatoes, brown-and-serve rolls, and 12-oz package of cranberries.
Items that saw modest price increases include a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, a 16-ounce package of frozen green peas, fresh carrots and celery.
Arkansas Farm Bureau is a nonprofit, private advocacy organization of more than 190,000 families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.