Inflation and the Rising Cost of a Thanksgiving Meal

Posted on November 21, 2022

Issues like inflation, supply issues and bad weather have driven prices up for just about everything, including Thanksgiving.

Overall, ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving meal will cost shoppers 13.5% more this year than last, market research firm IRI predicted earlier this month. using October data.

Several of these items are even more expensive on an individual basis, especially the show’s star: Turkey’s prices rose 24.4% year-over-year in the week ending November 6.

Meanwhile, fresh potatoes cost 19.9% ​​more, cranberry sauce 18.1% more, and salads and leafy greens 8.7% more over this period. Eggs and butter (including margarine or spreads) – key ingredients for desserts and sides – jumped 74.7% and 38.5%, respectively.

“We had some acute issues in 2022 – but these build on a foundation of issues that we have been dealing with for two years,” said Rob Fox, director of the knowledge exchange division at CoBank.

Here’s why every item on your Thanksgiving plate is more expensive this year.


Highly pathogenic bird flu – a deadly, contagious disease that has wiped out poultry flocks this year – has hit turkey supplies particularly hard.

“It’s been a very difficult year for turkey farmers across the country,” said Beth Breeding, spokeswoman for the National Turkey Federation.

“To date, we have lost about 8 million turkeys,” she said, “just over 3% of the expected annual turkey production.”

The disruption won’t mean a shortage of turkeys as producers start planning Thanksgiving a year before the holidays, giving them time to plan — even for a crisis like bird flu, she noted.

Livestock hopes things will stabilize, and said the industry is working with the Department of Agriculture to better understand the flu and how to prevent it. But for now, it’s unclear when the virus will run its course.

In 2015, the bird flu epidemic was under control in June, Breeding explained. But “this year we haven’t seen the same pattern,” she said. “We had a lull in cases, June, July and some of the hottest summer months, but we saw cases picking up in August before the fall.”

Inflation and the Rising Cost of a Thanksgiving Meal


Bad weather has stifled potato supplies, noted Courtney Buerger Schmidt, area manager with Wells Fargo’s food and agribusiness advisory group.

“It’s really been a tough year in the United States for crops,” Schmidt said. “That’s what happened to your potatoes.”

For spuds, “the rains came at the wrong time, or you didn’t get enough rain,” she said. “So you see another short crop this year.”

A Wells Fargo report co-authored by Schmidt explained that in the northwest region of the country, a cool spring – which delayed the potato harvest – was followed by extreme heat. “This type of environment stunts the growth of potato plants,” the report says. “Potatoes in the ground lose size and yield.”

Potatoes can be kept fresh all year round. But last year’s harvest was also poor due to hot, dry weather in Idaho, said Rabobank produce analyst Almuhanad Melhim. “We started this year with very low inventory,” he said. The tightening of supply caused prices to rise.

Inflation and the Rising Cost of a Thanksgiving Meal

Cranberry sauce

Cranberry crops are also smaller this year, but headwinds are less evident.

The harvest in Wisconsin was “lower than expected,” said Tom Lochner, executive director of the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, which produces much of the country’s cranberry crop.

The reason for the supply shortage? “We are scratching our heads,” Lochner said, and are working with experts to determine the cause. For now, his best bet is to go from cold to warm to cool weather.

“It affected the size of the fruit,” he said. “That’s probably why we came in a bit below what we expected.”

But this year is even better than last, when bad weather meant that cranberry crops were even smaller. “We’ve rebounded again from last year,” he said, adding there shouldn’t be a shortage of cranberries this year.

IRI data shows that fresh cranberries are actually cheaper this year than last, dropping 9.9%.

But that’s not the case with prepared cranberry sauces, where prices are on the rise.

Lochner pointed out that processors set these prices and they see higher input costs unrelated to the berries, such as “processing the fruit and bringing it to market.”

Inflation and the Rising Cost of a Thanksgiving Meal


Romaine lettuce and green leaf lettuce have been affected by crop diseases.

In California, where much of the country’s lettuce is grown, there was “a high incidence of virus infection that affected the crop quite significantly in some fields,” Melhim said. “This led to a very low supply and poor quality of lettuce. »

The problem is particularly acute right now due to the normal seasonal transition of crops from California to Arizona, he explained.

“You are about to start a new season [in Arizona] after the one in California is winding down,” he said. Even under normal circumstances, this time interval limits the supply.

The spread of the disease in California, plus this transition, “was the perfect recipe for really historically high prices,” he said.

Inflation and the Rising Cost of a Thanksgiving Meal


However you cut it, the pie will be more expensive this year as a variety of issues affect key ingredients.

Butter has become more expensive due to a contraction in milk supply.

There was “less milk [from] from a global perspective” than expected, Cobank’s Fox said. “You have less milk, you have less global butter supply.”

With lower milk supplies, dairy farmers have less to do, increasing competition between butter makers, cheese makers and fluid milk processors. Consumer interest in milk and cheese has outstripped demand for butter, driving up prices, according to a CoBank report.

Some pie recipes call for eggs or an egg bath. Consumers won’t be relieved either: along with turkeys, laying hens have also been hit by bird flu, sending egg prices skyrocketing.

Chickens that lay eggs “have been hit very hard,” Schmidt said. “I think at the peak we had lost 9% of our egg laying flock.” Other shelf-stable essentials, such as flour, are also more expensive. Even frozen pies and pasta became 23.6% more expensive, and prices for dairy whipped toppings rose 23%.

On the upside: Sweet potatoes and yams only rose 2.6% at the grocery store.

“Sweet potatoes are probably one of your best values ​​right now,” Wells Fargo’s Schmidt said. “You’ve definitely seen this crop perform a little better…so sweet potatoes might be what you want to use this year.”


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