By SUSAN BLOWER
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The cost for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner rose by $1.61 in Indiana, compared to last year, according to an informal survey of grocery store prices conducted by the Indiana Farm Bureau (IFB). The nationwide Farm Bureau survey reflected an even smaller increase of 28 cents.
The $50.99 price tag for a Hoosier table set for 10 people is still a real bargain, said Isabella Chism, IFB second vice president. The national survey results showed a cost of $49.48 for the same meal.
“The cost of this year’s meal is around $5 per person, so it’s still a bargain. It’s been a very difficult year for Indiana farmers, but our farm families feel honored and blessed to be able to produce the bounty that is celebrated at Thanksgiving,” Chism said.
She was referring to the historic drought that hit the entire Midwest and most of the nation this summer and into the fall. “I am not surprised at this point that there was not a big increase (in cost) ... The corn and beans came out a lot better than expected. They were not a total failure,” said Chism, who grows corn and soybeans with her husband in Howard County.
Though not a scientific study, the national Thanksgiving cost survey tracks closely with American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) research on food prices and the Consumer Price Index for food. See http://data.bls.gov
The surveys did not take into account special deals offered by local stores, in order that the results would not be skewed, Chism said. The shopping list features turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to feed a family of 10, with leftovers.
Turkey accounted for most of the increase in the cost of the dinner. The price for a 16-pound turkey crept up by 66 cents to $22.23 in the national survey, although special deals close to Thanksgiving can cut that cost considerably.
The slight uptick is a result of higher consumer demand for turkey, said John Anderson, AFBF deputy chief economist. And that’s with a drought and its effect on feed.
“The modest increase in the price of this year’s Thanksgiving turkey demonstrates the resilience of American turkey producers in the face of drought and higher feed costs,” said Dave Miller, director of research and commodity services for Iowa Farm Bureau.
“During each of the first eight months of 2012, U.S. turkey producers increased production and prices were slightly lower than a year ago, but higher prices for feed due to the record-setting drought of 2012 has led them to curtail production by about 4 percent during October, resulting in the slight increase in price that may be seen as Thanksgiving approaches this year. But we are on the cusp of change regarding seeing higher prices for meat.”
Other items on the Hoosier shopping list stayed fairly neutral or dropped in price since last year. The biggest decrease was for a gallon of whole milk, which dropped by 14 cents to $3.01 per gallon. Two frozen piecrusts remained unchanged at $2.39, as did a relish tray of 1 pound of mixed carrots and celery at 85 cents.
Twenty volunteers collected prices for specific items on the Indiana survey, while 155 volunteer shoppers in 35 states participated in the national survey.
Whether shopping carefully or planning ahead, Chism recommended consumers be savvy in the kitchen to save money, perhaps buying in bulk, freezing or canning fresh produce or freezing leftovers for future meals on the go.
Despite retail price increases, especially in the past year, Anderson noted American consumers have enjoyed stable food costs over the years, particularly when adjusted for inflation.
In 1993, IFB’s survey showed a cost of $29.50 for the traditional Thanksgiving meal. A small hike ensued each year, with the biggest price jump in 2007, an increase of nearly $13, resulting in a price of $47.63.