Thanksgiving meal price drops

Published 8:51 pm Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Virginians cooking Thanksgiving dinner for their families and friends today will have to pay a little less to put that meal on the table, according to an informal survey by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

The survey of the prices of basic items found on Virginians’ Thanksgiving tables places the average cost of a traditional meal for 10 adults at $47.23. The menu includes turkey, dressing, 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.

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The federation reports this year’s average represents a price decrease of 80 cents from last year’s average total price.

“Consumers are being told that food prices are rising, that the drought of 2012 will be the cause of higher grocery costs,” said Jonah Bowles, VFBF agriculture market analyst. “Livestock and dairy prices are higher than in 2011, but the market basket does not necessarily reflect that. Those associated food item prices are steady to lower than last year.”

Prices varied widely throughout the state. The locality surveyed that had the highest average cost for a meal was Chesapeake at $55.86. The locality with the lowest average cost was Middlesex County at $39.22.

“Shopping for deals will make a greater difference to consumers than the agricultural commodity prices, as we are seeing a wide range of prices that are available,” Bowles added.

Based on surveys of grocery stores throughout Virginia, Farm Bureau found the average cost of a 16-pound turkey was $22.08 or $1.38 per pound. Consumers paid an average of $1.34 per pound last year.

The organization found that the average price for a gallon of milk was $3.89; for peas, $1.47; for a three-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $2.37; for celery, $1.66; for carrots, $1.07; for pie shells, $2.26; for whipping cream, $2.01; for canned pumpkin pie filling, $3; for cranberries, $2.10; for stuffing mix, $2.94; and for rolls, $2.38 a dozen.

The average price of most of the components fell from last year. Whipping cream stayed the same, and pumpkin pie filling and stuffing mix rose slightly.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, farmers and ranchers receive 16 cents out of every dollar U.S. shoppers spend on food. The rest goes for costs beyond the farm gate: processing, marketing, transportation and distribution. In 1980, farmers and ranchers received 31 cents from the U.S. consumer food dollar.

Using that percentage across the board, the farmers’ share of the average Thanksgiving meal cost in Virginia would be $7.56 this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that Americans spend an average of 9.4 percent of their disposable annual income on food — the lowest average of any developed country in the world.