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Thanksgiving costs rising

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner will cost more this year, according to an informal survey of grocery store prices coordinated by Indiana Farm Bureau -- but the meal still remains affordable.

Indiana Farm Bureau's annual survey of the prices of basic food items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table showed that the average cost of this year's dinner for 10 is $47.63 -- up $12.92 from last year's average.

A nationwide survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation, which includes the Indiana survey, showed an average total cost of $42.26, an increase of $4.16 from last year's average of $38.10.

The Farm Bureau survey isn't scientific, but rather a snapshot of prices on basic items during a given period. Volunteer shoppers pick a grocery store in their area and collect prices from actual items on the official list. They are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of promotional coupons or purchase deals.

"Americans are blessed to have such an abundant variety of food produced by hardworking American farmers," IFB Second Vice President Isabella Chism said. "As we celebrate Thanksgiving, it's appropriate to give thanks for this bounty."

The Thanksgiving shopping list includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, as well as coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10.

Because turkey is by far the largest ticket item, when turkey prices go up, the cost of the total meal goes up accordingly.

On the Indiana survey, the cost of turkey jumped from 96 cents per pound in 2006 to $1.49 per pound in 2007, making the average price of a 16-pound bird $23.84. This is higher than the AFBF survey, which showed a price of $1.10 per pound, an increase of 12 cents per pound over 2006.

"The inventory of birds in cold storage is relatively small this year. This has helped drive up the average retail turkey price," AFBF economist Jim Sartwelle said.

"The tremendous increase in energy costs for transportation and processing over the past year also is a key factor behind higher retail prices at the grocery store," he added.

"Energy prices have been up for the last few years, and that increases the cost of manufacturing and transporting food," Purdue Agricultural Economist Corrine Alexander said. "As a result, we're seeing food retailers passing on these higher energy costs to consumers."

However, many grocery stores offer specials or coupons on turkey to get consumers into the store so that they do the rest of their holiday grocery shopping there as well, and these special deals are not reflected in the Farm Bureau survey.

"So, depending on the individual retail store's pricing decision, consumers may or may not be paying more for turkey this year than last year," Alexander said.

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