Consumers to spend $2.9 billion on Thanksgiving meal

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 360 views 

American families have long celebrated Thanksgiving with a turkey meal around the dining table.

This year, according to a survey completed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the cost of feeding a family of 10 in the U.S. is $49.12, a 75-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.87.

The total spend this year for Thanksgiving meals in the U.S. is expected to top $2.9 billion, or $4.91 per person, according to the survey.

In Arkansas, the cost to feed a family of 10 varies, from a high of $52.18 in Little Rock to a low of $35.53 in Paragould.

Other areas of the state surveyed include:

  • Monticello: $38.69
  • Hot Springs: $39.59
  • Harrison: $41.54
  • Jonesboro: $43.03
  • North Little Rock: $45.49
  • Clinton: $45.67
  • Hot Springs: $47.98
  • Lake Village: $49.01
  • Arkadelphia: $51.78

Talk Business & Politics surveyed Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith and found the items on the Farm Bureau grocery list cost an average of $48.77 based on prices in each city.

“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.

He said many Arkansas farmers this year had to overcome the effects of flooding in the spring, which delayed planting and reduced yields.

Travis Justice, chief economist for Arkansas Farm Bureau, attributes the slight drop in price to further reductions in the cost of key items on the menu.

“Overall, food-price inflation has remained below 1% 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.”

Turkey prices were up this year across the state, despite being lower in the national survey. Justice said that’s likely a reflection of retailer margin differences and trying to capture higher prices ahead of the last-minute promotional pricing as the holiday approaches.

“Favorable growing conditions throughout most of the country have allowed supplies of most fruit and vegetable crops to remain plentiful,” Justice said. “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 this year.”

Consumer confidence across the nation continues to trend higher, and retailers are hopeful that will lead to record spending over the Black Friday weekend and following weeks. The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects total holiday sales of $682 billion, up 4% from last year. E-commerce sales are expected to grow up to 15%, but the lion’s share of the holiday spending is still expected to be in brick and mortar, according to the NRF.

This year AAA expects 50.9 million people will travel at least 50 miles away from home for Thanksgiving, up 3.3% from a year ago. Nine out of 10 families traveling will do so by car. AAA officials said holiday travel this year is expected to be at its highest level since 2005. The average price for gasoline ahead of the holiday is $2.56 nationally and $2.27 in Arkansas, $2.24 in Oklahoma and $2.25 in Texas, according to on Tuesday (Nov. 21) afternoon.

The average cost for an airline ticket this holiday, according to the AAA, is $325, up 4% from last year. Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport expects a 2.6% increase in holiday traffic this Thanksgiving weekend. Many flights from XNA connect through Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, which is expected to be the fourth-busiest airport this week, with 850,314 passengers flying in and out.