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Indiana holiday meal cost up over 2016; U.S. down

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — After a significant decrease in 2016, grocery store prices for a traditional Thanksgiving meal are back to previous trends, according to Indiana Farm Bureau’s (IFB) annual Thanksgiving Marketbasket survey.

A 10-person dinner will cost an average of $50.88, which is $5.09 per person. The 2016 total was $46.81. Most of the 9 percent increase over last year is due to a rise in the cost of a 16-pound turkey, which was $25.99, one of 12 traditional items on the purchase list.

The survey does not take into consideration special sales or deals offered by local groceries. Stuffing, pumpkin pie filling and the veggie tray also saw significant price increases this year.

“Despite the modest increase in Indiana, consumers continue to see affordable prices for turkey this year, due to its large inventory across the country,” said Isabella Chism, IFB’s second vice president and chair of the Women’s Leadership Committee.

“Indiana has a lot to do with that, since our state ranks fourth in the nation in turkey production. Turkeys also consume about 15 percent of all soybean meal fed to livestock in Indiana, so they’re great for our state’s economy.”

Chris Hurt, Purdue University ag economist, said that grocery store prices are rising at a level under the general inflation rate, based on his own analysis of Thanksgiving food prices.

“Abundant crop harvests in both 2016 and 2017 are the primary reason why grocery store food prices are rising less than the general inflation rate. Favorable production has kept farm prices low, and that helps keep grocery store prices low,” he explained.

Low grain prices also allow for lower feed prices, causing some farmers to expand their turkey and livestock farms. In turn, higher production can affect consumer prices. Hurt’s own analysis shows a slight drop in turkey prices.

“Abundant grain crops mean low feed prices for the animal industry,” he said. “As a result, animal producers have been expanding production. Thanksgiving turkey supplies are higher this year. This will reduce the price farmers receive and enable consumer turkey prices to drop by an expected 2 to 4 percent.”

Besides the turkey, the IFB Marketbasket price of $50.88 includes the ingredients for stuffing and a pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, rolls, peas, a carrot and celery tray, whole milk, cranberries and miscellaneous baking items such as eggs, sugar and butter.

The items for which Indiana shoppers can expect to pay less this year include rolls, peas, whipping cream and pie shells. The prices for whole milk and cranberries remained relatively unchanged.

The IFB Thanksgiving Marketbasket survey was conducted by 37 volunteer shoppers across the state. Volunteer shoppers look for the best prices without taking advantage of special coupons or deals.

The 2017 prices are only 1 percent higher than in 2015. Last year prices decreased by 7 percent overall, making the 2016 Marketbasket the lowest recorded since 2010. In 2013, 2014 and 2015 the prices showed a steady increase each year, and 2017 prices trend similarly.

While Indiana’s shoppers tallied an increase in total cost, the national survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) showed a decline from the 2016 national survey to $49.12, which is about 3 percent less than Indiana’s average.

“Even as America’s family farmers and ranchers continue to face economic challenges, they remain committed to providing a safe, abundant and affordable food supply for consumers at Thanksgiving and throughout the year,” said AFBF director of market intelligence, John Newton.

Shoppers looking for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at comparable prices to the Farm Bureau averages. IFB’s and AFBF’s 2017 Thanksgiving Marketbasket prices track closely with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home.

“As a member of an Indiana farm family, I am honored to help produce the food that families gather around for Thanksgiving celebrations each year,” said Chism, who farms in Howard County.

While grocery story price are expected to remain low, families who purchase ready-made food can expect a 2-3 percent price increase, Hurt said. “Foods that are prepared or consumed away from home include more marketing services than our grocery store food. Someone is taking the raw materials from the grocery store and providing the food preparation.

“In the case of restaurants, they are also providing the dining facilities, table service and clean up. Prices of these added marketing services are moving up more rapidly than the basic food items purchased in grocery stores,” he noted.

Despite the worst disasters Mother Nature can give, American food production has been virtually unharmed. Other than for citrus, Hurt noted the hurricanes that struck Texas and Florida should not have a major impact on food prices. Many vegetables were not yet planted in Florida, and in Texas the crop was not in the flooded eastern portion of the state.

“Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate our blessings,” he added. “For those at the first Thanksgiving the celebration of sufficient food was a top priority. Today, modern agriculture has generally been able to provide abundant food, and to do that at moderate costs.

“This Thanksgiving follows in that tradition, as agriculture and weather have combined to provide a bountiful harvest and to keep food cost increases at a moderate level.”