U.S. Thanksgiving Feast Estimated to Cost 14 Percent More This Year Thanks to Inflation

Families across the U.S. could find that their Thanksgiving meals are significantly more expensive than normal.

The American Farm Bureau said that an average Thanksgiving feast for 10 people will cost around $53.31 this year, a 14 percent increase from last year. Staples of this sample include turkey, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, a vegetable tray and rolls.

What makes this statistic especially unusual is the fact that the costs for meals since 2015 have been falling. Experts, including Butterball President and CEO Jay Jandrain, are attributing this spike in cost to inflation around the country.

"The inflation is real," Jandrain told the Associated Press. His company supplies around one-third of turkeys commonly cooked for annual Thanksgiving get-togethers. They, along with other companies, have struggled to hire new workers earlier this year. However, Jandrain said that their previous shortage woes have subsided, allowing the same number of turkeys to be shipped to grocery stores as last year.

"Everybody is saying that. Everybody is feeling it," he continued. "Whether it's labor, transportation, packaging materials, energy to fuel the plants—everything costs more."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the average price of an 8-16 pound frozen turkey was up $1.35 per pound this month. That is a price increase of 21 percent from last year. Fresh pumpkins, which saw smaller crops in Illinois and California, are also averaging $2.72 per pound. Green beans are up by 4 percent and canned cranberry sauce is up 2.5 percent in prices.

These high prices, especially for turkeys, could persist into 2022.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Butterball Turkeys
U.S. consumer prices have increased solidly in the past few months on items such as food, rent, cars and other goods as inflation has risen to a level not seen in 30 years. A shopper walks past turkeys displayed for sale in a grocery store ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on November 11 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

While turkeys waited, they grew bigger, adding to already skyrocketing costs for corn and soybean feed.

"The good news about that is everybody loves the after-Thanksgiving leftovers, and they are going to have more of them this year," Jandrain said.

Pumpkin crops were smaller due to heavy rains and a fungus in Illinois—a top supplier—and drought in California.

Ryanne Bowyer of Dallas, Texas, usually buys turkey a day or two after Thanksgiving to save money. But this year, she signed up for Ibotta, a receipt-scanner app, which gave her a turkey, potatoes, corn, soup, gravy and cornbread from Walmart—all free—just for signing up.

"If that hadn't come along, the plan was just to go to the woods with my wife and grill wieners," Bowyer joked.

Still, many retailers facing cost pressures of their own are pulling back on their usual Thanksgiving promotions. In the week before Thanksgiving, the number of U.S. stores offering specials on turkeys was at the lowest level since 2017, said Mark Jordan, the executive director of Leap Market Analytics, which follows the livestock and poultry markets.

"There will still be some discounts, but some of the extreme giveaways are going to be fewer and farther between," Jordan said.

Diana Jepsen, a retiree from West Hartford, Connecticut, said she usually pays $1 per pound for her Thanksgiving turkey. This year, her 23-pound Butterball cost $1.50 per pound. But she still thinks that's a good value, especially compared to the recent price increases she has seen for beef and chicken.

Jepsen will celebrate Thanksgiving with 21 family members, including her 96-year-old mother. Her Cuban-American family bastes the turkey in a mojo criollo marinade. Jepsen's husband, George Jepsen, the former attorney general of Connecticut, cooks the turkey, following his mother-in-law's recipe. Other staples they serve, including black beans and yucca, haven't increased in price, she said. Jepsen also got boxed stuffing on sale.

"We still think it's a good bargain to be able to serve that many people," she said.

Feed costs remain elevated, along with labor and transportation costs.

That could help the turkey business, however, which for years has faced faltering demand for parts like turkey breasts and deli meat. The industry slaughtered 159 million turkeys in the first nine months of 2021, giving the U.S. its lowest per capita supply of turkey since 1987, Jordan said. Higher prices could encourage farmers to raise and slaughter more turkeys next year.

For some shoppers, availability—not price—was the biggest concern this year. Lauren Knapp, an economist in Rochester, New York, bought two frozen turkeys on sale weeks earlier than she might have because she worried about shortages. Knapp and her partner plan to make a practice meal on Thanksgiving and a second meal for relatives in early December.

"Friends in D.C. were saying it would be a chicken Thanksgiving because they can't find turkey anywhere," said Knapp, who was relieved turkeys were available even though some items she buys, like low-sodium turkey slices for sandwiches, have been harder to come by this year.

Jay Jandrain
Butterball, which supplies around one-third of Thanksgiving turkeys, struggled to attract workers earlier this year, leading to processing delays. Butterball President and CEO Jay Jandrain poses in his office at the company's corporate headquarters in Garner, North Carolina on November 19. AP Photo/Gerry Broome