It will cost families less to prepare the Thanksgiving meal this year, due largely to lower prices for frozen turkey and a gallon of whole milk. According to Arkansas Farm Bureau’s 28th annual survey, it will cost $42.63 for a family of 10, or $4.26 per person, to enjoy the feast. Last year’s average was $45.12.
The statewide average is based on responses from members of the Farm Bureau Women’s Committee and other volunteers who surveyed food prices at 11 grocery stores and supermarkets across the state. They were asked to report the "best in-store price" of 12 items included in the meal. They are allowed to take advantage of advertised specials, excluding discount coupons and purchase requirements.
Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach says the drop in the cost of the meal is remarkable, especially in light of the drought farmers have endured the past several years.
"The fact the cost of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is more than $2 lower than last year remains a testament to the efficiencies of our food production system," said Veach. "Though the drought eased somewhat this year, American farmers and ranchers continue to face high energy and production costs. Yet because of their reliance on the latest research and technology, consumer prices for food products remain stable and are actually seeing declines in some sectors.
"Because we have such a bountiful supply, American families will be able to enjoy this meal and share it with others. That is truly reason to give thanks."
Arkansas food prices continue to remain more affordable than elsewhere. American Farm Bureau conducts a national survey to gauge price trends across the country and reported an average of $49.04 to prepare the meal this year.
Though unscientific, the survey is intended to be a gauge of actual price trends across Arkansas and the nation. The survey period was Nov. 1-12. The shopping list has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow consistent price comparisons.
"Arkansas consumers will enjoy a 5 percent drop in cost compared to last year," said Travis Justice, Arkansas Farm Bureau’s chief economist. "Lower prices on turkey and sweet potatoes account for much of the price difference from a year ago.
"Turkey supplies have increased this year due to lower feed prices, while sweet potatoes benefited from this year’s milder growing conditions. Both of these items were negatively impacted by the heat and drought in 2012."
After rising sharply two years ago, the average price of a 16-pound young tom turkey this year fell $2.26 to $15.59 ($.98 cents per pound). Turkey prices are higher nationwide. American Farm Bureau reported an average of $1.36 per pound.
Another major driver of the survey is the cost of a gallon of whole milk. After rising more than a dollar between 2010 and 2011, the average price this year dropped 12 cents to $4.00. Also contributing to the overall decline was a 22 cent drop for three pounds of sweet potatoes and 32 cent drop for a 12-ounce package of cranberries.
Other items included in the meal that saw modest price declines were a package of brown and serve rolls, frozen green peas, a pound of carrots, and half pint of whipping cream.
Items that saw price increases were cubed stuffing up 47 cents to $2.41, a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, up 28 cents to $3.09, a two-count package of frozen pie shells, up a nickel to $2.22 and bunch of celery, up 38 cents to $1.74. A group of miscellaneous items including coffee and items needed to prepare the meal was $3.20. Individual totals ranged from a low of $37.68 in Forrest City, to $48.79 in Lake Village.