BY Alice Culp
South Bend Tribune
SOUTH BEND —
Turkey, stuffing and all the Thanksgiving dinner trimmings could cost a little more this year.
But consumers can give thanks for the small size of the increase — an average of 28 cents, according to an informal survey of grocery store prices the American Farm Bureau Federation holds each year.
Last year at this time, cooks were looking at a hike of 13 percent, the largest since 1990. It was caused by substantial increases in the cost of pumpkin, milk, peas and turkey.
But this year, despite a 20-cent per pound increase in the cost of turkey, the price tag for Thanksgiving dinner went up only about 1 percent.
“Turkey is the star of the show,” said Kathleen Dutro, a spokesperson for Indiana Farm Bureau. “And when the price of the turkey goes up or down, the cost of the meal goes up or down.”
Indiana Farm Bureau’s survey, which is factored into the national survey, reported that the cost for this year’s feast for 10 is $50.99 compared to $49.38 in 2011.
That’s just slightly more than $5 a person.
To compile the information, the organization sent out 20 Indiana volunteer shoppers-- 155 volunteer shoppers in 35 states participated nationwide -- to check prices at grocery stores. On their shopping lists were a 16-pound turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray with celery and carrots and pumpkin pie with whipped topping.
Shoppers were asked to look for the best prices, but not to use special promotional coupons or purchase deals.
This year, a 16-pound gobbler costs $25.56 — up 20 cents a pound from last year.
“Most of that is because of an increase in demand,” Dutro said, citing information from American Farm Bureau.
Although the cost of feed increased this year with the drought, it doesn’t affect food prices as much people think, Dutro said. Farmers raise turkeys on a contract and prices were locked in before the drought.
“Most of the meat and dairy on the market at the moment are the product of feed produced last year,” she said.
Instead, a larger contributor to the price hike, she said, is the cost of fuel for transporting, packaging, advertising and refrigerating, which affects all of the food.
It helps that supermarkets tend to discount turkeys during the holiday season, because they know that shoppers will also purchase trimmings, said Corinne Alexander, a Purdue University agricultural economist, in a press release.
Only two other items on the Indiana survey increased in cost. One was a dozen brown-and-serve rolls, which increased 16 cents to $2.02 for a 12-ounce package. The other was a combined group of miscellaneous items that includes coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal such as onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter. The cost of the items rose 8 cents to $3.18.
Everything else on the shopping list either stayed the same or decreased in price. The largest decrease was for a gallon of whole milk, which dropped by 14 cents to $3.01 per gallon.
Other items that decreased in cost include whipping cream, fresh cranberries, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie filling, stuffing and frozen peas. The price of pie crusts and the relish tray remained the same.
The overall cost of the holiday dinner has increased every year since 2008. Today the cost is more than double what it was in 1986, the first year American Farm Bureau collected data.
Alexander expects food prices to continue to increase in 2013.
“Commodity grain prices are at record levels because of the 2012 drought in the Midwest,” she said. “Livestock and dairy producers continue to reduce their herds and, as a result, consumers will see higher prices for meat and dairy products in 2013.”