Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017
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Thanksgiving meal costs to drop again this year

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Look for your waistline and wallet to both be thicker after Thanksgiving dinner this week.

A plentiful supply of frozen turkeys is driving the price of the holiday meal down for the second straight year.

“The production [of turkeys] is expected to be up 3 percent for this final quarter. While prices lag generally a month behind, we still expect them to be down 2 to 4 percent from the same time a year ago,” said Chris Hurt, an agricultural economist at the University of Purdue.

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Mr. Hurt said abundant crop harvests in both 2016 and 2017 are the primary reason why grocery store food prices are rising less than the general inflation rate. Favorable production has kept farm prices low, and that helps keep grocery store prices low, he added.

According to government figures, fruit and vegetable prices at grocery stores are running about 1 percent higher this year, he noted. Cereal and bakery product prices are unchanged from a year ago. The costs of sugar and sweets also are unchanged, and the pumpkin crop for pie fillings was above average this year, which is expected to mean little change in prices.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, which annually compiles prices for the parts of a typical Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people, said the overall cost this year will be $49.87, a decrease of 75 cents from a year ago.

The key item, a 16-pound turkey, will cost an average of $22.38 this year, or roughly $1.40 per pound. That’s down 2 cents per pound, or a total of 36 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2016, the bureau said.

Mr. Hurt said many grocery stores use turkeys as loss leaders to get shoppers through their doors. The price of turkeys with a loyalty card or a $30 purchase are averaging 99 cents a pound nationwide and about $1.60 a pound without a loss-leader price or special promotion.

Toledo area consumers will do even better when purchasing their turkeys.

Meijer stores will have the lowest price with a Meijer brand frozen turkey at 48 cents a pound with an additional $30 purchase. Kroger is selling its store brand frozen turkeys for 49 cents a pound for loyalty card users who make an added $20 purchase.

Butterball turkeys, which is a trusted national brand, are just as competitive. Meijer and Walmart both had frozen Butterball turkeys for 98 cents a pound. Aldi priced them at 99 cents a pound.

Kroger is selling Butterball turkeys, either fresh or frozen, for $1.59 a pound, while Meijer’s frozen Butterball was $1.99 a pound

For those looking for more exotic birds, the Fresh Market was offering its store branded antibiotic-free, non-GMO, vegetarian-fed bird for $2.49 a pound, while the area’s Five-Star Markets once again have their Bowman Landes free-range turkeys for $3.39 a pound.

The farm bureau said foods showing the largest decreases this year besides turkey were a gallon of milk, $2.99; a dozen rolls, $2.26; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.45; a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.52; a 1-pound bag of green peas, $1.53; and a group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), $2.72.

Mr. Hurt said the lower prices all go back to the abundant crops.

“This is really related to the very good harvest we had last year. Feed prices were very moderate, and we had the lowest corn prices in 10 years. Soybean meal was the lowest in 10 years, and that’s used to feed turkeys,” he said.

“Also, the USDA is saying there was not much impact on food prices by the hurricanes this year, Harvey and Irma. Irma did have an affect on the citrus crop in Florida, but citrus is not a part of Thanksgiving,” Mr. Hurt said.

Contact Jon Chavez at jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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