Turkey, Pumpkin Supply Issues Won’t Impact Thanksgiving Meal Prices

While the aftershocks of this summer’s avian flu outbreak and the recent loss of pumpkin crops to high rainfall have led to higher prices for the products, analysts say those costs shouldn’t affect this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. 

The Chicago Tribune reports that despite issues with decimated crops and sick birds, the average cost for a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people will continue to hover around $49, a rate it’s been at since 2011.

The rather consistent pricing for the holiday staples comes in part because of planning and the way in which companies produce the products.

Although the bird flu wiped out eight million turkeys this year, most of the birds shoppers will find in the supermarket were actually harvested and frozen before the outbreak began.

These frozen turkeys make up nearly three-quarters of the Thanksgiving bird market. And prices for the poultry have been declining since the peak of the outbreak: frozen hens averaged $1.08 per pound as of Nov. 6, down from $1.69 three weeks earlier, according to the USDA weekly supermarket survey.

Also helping to ease costs are grocers’ strategies to drop the price of frozen turkeys near Thanksgiving as a way to spur sales of other items and to stock up on birds well in advance of the holiday rush, Richard Volpe, a professor at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California, and former retail food price economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tells the Tribune.

For example, Walmart says it plans to have more birds on hand than ever before, offering the items for about $0.64 less than last year.

Of course, there are always exceptions, and this year that’s fresh turkeys, the Tribune reports. According to the USDA, fresh whole hens averaged $1.60 a pound at the beginning of the month, while they cost about $1.36/pound last year.

As for pumpkin crops affected by heavy rainfall in Illinois and early ripening in California, the Tribune reports that the supply of canned pumpkin should last through the holiday.

Libby’s tells the Tribune that the company doesn’t expect the impending pumpkin shortage to hit until after the holiday baking season is over.

According to the USDA, the remaining Thanksgiving staples will be a bit more expensive, but not enough to necessarily break the bank.

Fear not: You’ll get your Thanksgiving turkey, pumpkin pie [The Chicago Tribune]