Thanksgiving will cost less
ILLUSTRATION BY David W. Rowe/Times News
Americans have yet another reason to be grateful: The cost of this year's Thanksgiving dinner is 44 cents cheaper than last year's, and despite a cutback on 16-pound Butterball turkeys, local retailers say they have a plentiful supply.
The price of a feast for 10 that includes a stuffed 16-pound turkey, cranberries, rolls and butter, peas, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and coffee with milk will cost an average of $49.04 this year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
That's less than $5 per person. Last year, the dinner weighed in at $49.48, based on the 28th informal annual survey conducted by the bureau.
The savings, however slight, are mostly due to a 3 cents per pound drop in the price of turkey. This year's bird is expected to cost about $1.36 a pound, according to the bureau.
"This year we can be thankful that Thanksgiving Dinner, a special meal many of us look forward to all year, will not take a bigger bite out of our wallets," said John Anderson, the bureau's deputy chief economist.
"Slightly higher turkey production for much of the year, coupled with an increase in birds in cold storage, may be responsible for the moderate price decrease our shoppers reported," he said
Another factor may be that feed prices have begun dropping in the last half of this year after three years of steady increases, said Mark O'Neill of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
Even a small savings is good news for Americans, about 88 percent of whom eat turkey for Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation.
That makes Duane Koch of Koch's Turkey Farms in Walker Township happy.
Koch's sells about 100,000 turkeys a year, including to wholesale buyers like Whole Foods, he said. This year, there won't be quite as many because Koch's reduced production due to high feed grain costs.
"But we held our prices the same," he said.
The most popular bird is the regular, antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed turkey, Koch said. Next in line is the free-range turkey, with the Heirloom Bronze a close third. Sales of the Heirloom Bronze have been growing by about 20 percent a year, and sales of organic turkeys, fed grain that is not genetically modified, soared by 28 percent this year, he said.
The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 16 pounds, according to the National Turkey Federation.
That could be why consumers were concerned when Butterball announced it was cutting retail allotments of its 16-pound turkeys.
"Butterball and its retail partners have ample supply of frozen whole turkeys of all sizes small, medium or large," said spokeswoman Bridget O'Malley. "While there may be limited availability on some larger sizes of fresh turkeys, Butterball has shipped 100 percent of customer orders of frozen whole turkeys, and products are in distribution across the country. We experienced a decline in weight gains on some of our farms, causing a limited availability of large, fresh turkeys."
Local supermarkets say they have plenty of birds on hand.
"Our supply of Butterball turkeys is not affected. We lock in, order and procure all of our turkeys early in the year and inventory is often on hand long before the holiday, so anything that may be happening currently will not affect any inventory we have, at present," said Redner's spokesman Eric B. White.
"We are in great shape. The Butterball issue concern is for only fresh and only birds 16 pounds and bigger," said Giant markets spokesman Christopher Brand.
Overall, turkey production has dropped.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of turkeys raised in the state dropped from 7 million last year to 6.5 million this year. Nationally, the numbers went from 253.5 million to 242 million.
Although the state last year ranked ninth in the nation in the number of turkeys raised more than $120 million worth turkey production probably peaked in 2008, with close to 11 million birds, worth about $138.4 million.