Average traditional Thanksgiving meal cost rises 9% this year in Arkansas

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 306 views 

Consumers serving up a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of turkey and trimmings will reach a little deeper in their pockets, according to the Arkansas Farm Bureau annual survey. This year, the average spend for 10 people will cost $57.75, up $4.82 from last year.

The biggest reason for the higher cost relates to higher meat and poultry prices at retail. Farm Bureau said frozen turkey supplies are down 15% from last year. Ham inventories are also down from record levels in 2016 which has helped push prices higher.

While retail prices are higher for meat and poultry, Mark Lambert, director of Commodity Activities and Economics for Arkansas Farm Bureau, said the prices farmers receive for crops and livestock have been flat over the past four years resulting in record lows in net farm income.

“Farmers and ranchers receive only eight cents of every dollar consumers spend on food,” Lambert said. “Relatively speaking, the consumer price index for food at home rose 1%, meaning food prices are relatively stable, considering global trade concerns.”

Arkansas’ food price survey came in 7% below the national average of $6.23 per person, or $62 for a group of 10.

“We are fortunate to have the most affordable and abundant food supply in the world,” said Randy Veach, Arkansas Farm Bureau President. “As we do each Thanksgiving, many families and charitable organizations will share the meal with those who are not as fortunate. That is truly a reason to give thanks.”

Veach said the reason consumers continue to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal for less than $6 a person, on average, is a result of the efficiency of the nation’s food production system.

“Grain prices continue to remain low and our farmers continue to feel the effects of the tariff war with China,” he said. “Flooding in the spring and drought during harvest affected crop production, but despite this, because of research and the latest technological advancements, farmers and ranchers are able to manage their cost of production,” Veach added.

Farm Bureau said the survey is unscientific and is intended to be a snapshot of actual prices across the state and nation from Nov. 1-17.

The turkey is often the centerpiece of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. This year, a 16-pound turkey averaged $1.06 per pound, or $16.92. The cost is up 21.9% from a year ago. American Farm Bureau’s national survey reported an average of $20.80, or $1.30 per pound for the whole bird.

The average 4-pound bone-in ham costs an average of $2.06 per pound or $8.25 in Arkansas. This is up 25% from the $6.59 average cost a year ago.

Other items on the shopping list that reflected price increases are a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes which cost $3.16 or $1.05 per pound. A gallon of whole milk averaged $3.29, up 65 cents from $2.64 last year.

Other items surveyed include a package of fresh cranberries at $2.38, up 16% from a year ago. Frozen peas and fresh carrots also will cost a bit more this year, while a 5-pound bag of Russet potatoes will cost roughly half of last year at $2.62. The stuffing mix will cost $2.69, up from $2.43 last year. Dinner rolls, pumpkin pie mix, whole milk and whipping cream will all cost more this year. Frozen pie shells will be about 25-cents cheaper. Miscellaneous items ring up at $3.22 up from $3.01 last year.

Arkansas Farm Bureau conducted 13 surveys around the state for their average prices. Benton had the highest cost for 10 people at $65.84, followed by Lake Village at $65.44 and North Little Rock at $62.62. Jonesboro has the lowest cost in the survey at $45.74.

Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith were not part of the survey. Talk Business & Politics checked prices at Walmart in those markets to find Northwest Arkansas’ average cost was $51.98. The cost was $50.46 in Fort Smith.

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