Meal costs up

Published 9:36 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2011

As you’re looking at the spread of food in front of you today, be sure to thank your hostess — especially if you didn’t offer to bring anything.

According to an informal price survey conducted by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 10 adults was $48.03.

That’s an increase of $4.46 from last year’s average total price.

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“It is not surprising that our Thanksgiving basket cost more in 2011 than last year,” said Jonah Bowles, VFBF agriculture market analyst. “Most agricultural prices around the world are much more expensive than in 2010. Add to that a higher transportation expense, and the 11-percent increase over 2010 prices becomes very understandable.”

The survey of the price of basic items found on Americans’ Thanksgiving tables places the average cost of a traditional meal for 10 adults at $48.03. The menu includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Prices were reported using no promotional sales or coupons.

“There are wide variations in prices of each component in the basket,” Bowles said. “It is to the advantage of the consumer to shop around for the best deals.”

Based on surveys of grocery stores throughout Virginia, Farm Bureau found the average cost of a 16-pound turkey was $21.39 or $1.34 per pound. Consumers paid an average of $1.21 per pound last year.

The organization found that the average price for a gallon of milk was $4.04; for peas, $1.71; for a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $2.84; for celery, $1.68; for carrots, $1.44; for pie shells, $2.40; for whipping cream, $2.01; for canned pumpkin pie filling, $2.73; for cranberries, $2.48; for stuffing mix, $2.90; and for rolls, $2.41 a dozen.

In its recent report, “A Revised and Expanded Food Dollar Series: A Better Understanding of Our Food Costs,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service notes that for every dollar Americans spend on food, only 11.6 cents — a little more than a dime — goes back to the farms where that food originated.

Using that percentage across the board, the farmers’ share of the average Thanksgiving meal cost in Virginia would be $5.57 this year.

The USDA reports that Americans spend 9.5 percent of their disposable annual income on food — the lowest average of any developed country in the world.