While strong demand for turkey and other items will increase the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for Wisconsin shoppers, its cost is still a better deal than a trip through the drive-thru.
That's the finding of Wisconsin Farm Bureau's annual Thanksgiving price survey of traditional items like turkey, stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie for a family of 10. This year's average price of $50.17 marked an increase of $4.91 (10.8%) over last year.
When that total is divided by 10, it shows that the cost to prepare a nutritious, home-cooked Thanksgiving meal is $5.02.
"That's still a bargain no matter which way to slice the turkey," said Casey Langan, Wisconsin Farm Bureau spokesman.
The American Farm Bureau Federation's national survey of the same items (turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of milk and coffee, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10) averaged $49.20.
"The 10 percent increase in Wisconsin was similar to the 13% increase seen on the national level," Langan said.
Wisconsin's average price for a 16-pound turkey came in at $23.20, which is $1.63 higher than the $21.57 national average and $3.04 higher than last year's average Wisconsin price. With that item alone, the cost of a Thanksgiving meal in Wisconsin came in higher than the national average. Yet, because other items were more affordable in Wisconsin, the $50.17 price for the entire meal in America's Dairyland was just 97 cents higher than the national average of $49.20.
More affordable in Wisconsin than the national averages were whole milk, whipping cream, rolls, pumpkin pie mix, pie shells, green peas and carrots and celery for a relish tray. Meanwhile, fresh cranberries, stuffing and sweet potatoes were the items that rang up as more expensive in Wisconsin than the national average.
"U.S. turkey production is up this year, but so are exports and domestic demand," Langan explained. "The amount of turkey kept in cold storage this year remains historically low. All of this sends a message to the market to keep the price high."
While Americans will consume nearly 46 million turkeys this Thanksgiving, their popularity expands beyond our borders. Mexico and China are expected to lead the turkey export market.
Mexico buys about 60% of its turkeys from the U.S. annually, making it the leading foreign customer. Ranked second is China, where punitive tariffs on U.S. chicken meat will continue to mean higher sales for U.S. turkey exporters.
"We are seeing reports of turkey exports increasing by as much as 20% this year," Langan said. "We are likely to export an eighth of our turkey production, which equates to 300,000 metric tons."
FARMER'S SHARE IS JUST $8.03
Over the last three decades retail grocery prices have gradually increased while the share of the average dollar spent on food that farm families receive has dropped. In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures in grocery stores and restaurants. Since then that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16%, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's revised Food Dollar Series. Using that percentage across the board, the farmer's share of this year's $50.17 Thanksgiving meal would be $8.03.
"Wisconsin's farm families take pride in the quality and variety of foods they produce so families across the nation can enjoy a bountiful Thanksgiving celebration," Langan said.
Despite a higher Thanksgiving grocery bill, the USDA says Americans will spend approximately 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food this year, the lowest average in the world.
The over 10 percent increase in the survey's average price closely tracks the increase seen in the Wisconsin Farm Bureau's quarterly survey of 16 basic food items. The survey of 2011's third quarter survey (July through September) showed an 11.6 percent increase from a year earlier.
The combination of strong global demand, high energy prices and weather extremes around the nation are all driving steady price growth for many food items.
ABOUT THE SURVEY
The Marketbasket Survey is a quarterly look at the trends in food prices in Wisconsin in relation to changing farm prices, weather and wholesale and retail food marketing. Members of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau collected price samples of 12 Thanksgiving food items in 21 communities across Wisconsin in October and November.
Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends.
Wis. 2011 Wis. 2010 National 2011
Turkey, 16 lbs. 23.20 20.16 21.57
Milk, 1 gallon whole 3.61 2.95 3.66
Cream, half pint 1.60 1.48 1.96
Rolls, 12 1.98 1.96 2.30
Relish tray (1 lb. carrots-celery) .65 .72 .76
Fresh cranberries, 12 oz. 2.63 2.41 2.48
Pumpkin pie mix, 30 oz. 3.01 2.67 3.03
Pie shells (2) 2.34 2.47 2.52
Cube stuffing, 14 oz. 3.03 2.55 2.88
Sweet potatoes, 3 lbs. 3.39 3.36 3.26
Green peas, 1 lb. 1.63 1.31 1.68
Misc. ingredients 3.10 3.22 3.10
TOTAL $50.17 $45.26 $49.20
The Marketbasket Survey is an informal measure of prices at grocery stores in Wisconsin. The prices reported reflect variations in communities and retailers. The prices reported are not validated by any outside source. Prices were collected for this survey in the communities of Appleton, Brodhead, Cornell, De Pere, La Crosse, Lancaster, Madison, Marshfield, Menominee, Mequon, Monroe, New Richmond, Oconto Falls, Plover, Rib Mountain, Richland Center, Sauk City, Saukville, Shawano, Watertown and West Bend.