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Steady price of holiday feast a reason to give thanks

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Frugal gourmets might have a little something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: the cost of the holiday feast didn't shoot up again.

After reporting a 13 percent increase last year, the American Farm Bureau Federation reported the average American family should spend only about 28 cents more on Thanksgiving this year.

The Farm Bureau's 27th annual cost of Thanksgiving survey found that a traditional dinner for 10 - complete with turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and other trimmings - increased just four-tenths of a percent this year.

The survey found the average cost for this year's meal was $49.48. The 2011 average was $49.20.

The Farm Bureau recruited 155 volunteer shoppers in 35 states to conduct the survey.

Shoppers were asked to look for the best possible prices, without using coupons or other promotional deals. Survey organizers said bargain hunters nationwide should be able to find similar prices in their areas if they keep their eyes peeled for the best prices.

"Most Americans will pay about the same as last year at the grocery store for a turkey and all the trimmings," said John Anderson, deputy chief economist for the federation.

While the price is slightly higher this year, the increase was nothing like the $5.73 jump recorded in 2011.

The Farm Bureau also noted that, when adjusted for inflation over the past year, the meal is actually slightly less than might be expected. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer home food prices have increased by about 0.8 percent since September 2011.

West Virginia consumers will save a bit on Thanksgiving dinner taxes this year, too.

Since Thanksgiving 2011, the state's food tax has dropped from 3 to 1 percent. The reduction equates to a final savings of about 98 cents on local shoppers' total after-tax bill.

The jump in 2011 prices was caused by a 22 percent increase in the price of turkey compared to 2010. The traditional holiday fowl is also the main reason for this year's bump.    

"A slight increase in demand for turkey is responsible for the moderate price increase our shoppers reported for the bird," Anderson said.

The survey found the average price for a 16-pound turkey went up by 66 cents this year to $22.33. That translates to about a 4 cent per pound increase over 2011.

The increase in turkey prices gobbled up all of the potential savings shoppers found in other areas.

Half-pints of whipping cream were down 13 cents, 14-ounce packages of stuffing and three-pound bags of sweet potatoes both dropped 11 cents, milk dropped 7 cents, cranberries were down 3 cents, and peas, pumpkin pie mix and pie shells all dropped 2 cents.

The cost of miscellaneous items, such as coffee, and ingredients like onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter increased by about 8 cents to $3.18. A dozen brown-n-serve rolls also rose 3 cents to $2.33.

A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery stayed flat at 76 cents.

The survey was first conducted in 1986. That year the average meal cost $28.74.

If the meal cost had risen along with inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index, it would be nearly $60 today.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at or 304-348-5148. 


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