Getting turkey to the table costs more this year

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Since the very first one in 1621, Thanksgiving, in its formal and informal observances, been celebrated on different days with unique customs and rituals, giving thanks for various reasons. 

But throughout these traditions, there’s been one constant — food, and plenty of it.

This year, when Americans take bites from the bounty on the table, that food will take a bigger bite out of our pocketbooks. The American Farm Bureau Federation says the average cost of a 16-pound turkey this year is $24, or $1.50 per pound, an increase of almost 25% from $19.39 ($1.21 per pound) in 2020 and $20.80 ($1.30 per pound) in 2019. 

The centerpiece of the traditional meal may be the turkey, but other staples such as side dishes of mashed or sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and casseroles are all costing more this year.

Teresa Graves of Siler City has noticed the drastic increase of her food costs. 

“Our weekly grocery bill has doubled in the past year,” she said. “It blows me away, an increase like that.” 

There’ll be a dozen family members at Graves’s home for Thanksgiving dinner, and to help soften the blow to her wallet, family members will contribute to the meal.

“Dividing it like that helps spread out the cost to everyone,” Graves said.

Industry poultry producer Hormel said one reason for the price jump is a 20% reduction in the supply of turkeys because of avian flu. That same issue has been linked to a significant increase in the price of eggs. 

“I was talking with a lady the other day who told me she paid $6 for 18 eggs,” Graves said. “That’s hard to grasp.”

There are corresponding hikes for everything else — fruits, vegetables, sauces and gravies, bread, and rolls. Even desserts are affected, increasing by as much as 25% in the last year during a period of record inflation.

But the cost of goods isn’t the only culprit. Some analysts and observers suggest the increase in the cost of diesel fuel — which has more than doubled in some parts of the nation — has contributed to a 15% increase in today’s inflation rate. 

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture says the total cost for a typical meal for 10 people this year is $53.31. In 2020, that figure was $46.90 — that’s an increase of nearly 15% .

There’s a silver lining, however: supply-chain issues seemed to have slowed. 

Grover Paige, a veteran of 47 years in the grocery business in Siler City, said supplies of food at Food Lion, where he is assistant manager, are “better than the pre-pandemic days.” 

“As a matter of fact, they are the best they’ve been in some time,” Paige said. “There are a few dairy items we have a bit of trouble getting in, but the core items are in good shape.”

Right now, he says, the store is “seeing record sales.”
“Part of that is because prices are up, but we’re also seeing record amounts of product being moved,” Paige said. “I think people find ways to cope. We’ve got to eat.” 

One way some people cope is with alternative cuts of less expensive meats — maybe even venison, in a nod to what Pilgrims and Native Americans ate — along with vegetables such as squash, corn or pumpkin, again items, along with fish, that were likely on those first Thanksgiving Day tables.

And as Thanksgiving arrives, USDA nutritionists have a word of advice: it’s not uncommon, and actually very easy, for a person to consume as many as 3,000 to 4,000 calories during that meal.

That’s a heavy load, especially when many medical personnel and nutritionists recommend about 2,500 calories per day for men and 2,000 per day for women. 

Even more reason to watch your wallet — and your waistline — this Thanksgiving.

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