Thanksgiving turkey

It’s that time of year again, when we prepare to fight the crowds at the grocery store for Thanksgiving fixings that we’ve been told are sure to be in short supply and exorbitantly priced. Panicky stories warning of turkey or pumpkin or sweet potato shortages are one thing you can count on year after year, even if they don’t end up panning out. But the one thing that Thanksgiving-themed news stories stories can’t seem to get straight this year, is just how much your big meal is going to cost you.

“Turkey prices boost Thanksgiving cost to new high,” one report warns. “Turkey prices soar as families plan Thanksgiving feasts,” another declares.

And then there are these reports: “Turkey prices drop as Thanksgiving approaches,” and “As Americans Shop For Thanksgiving, They’re Finding Cheaper Prices.”

So which is it – are you going to spend more or less to feed your relatives this year?

It depends whom you ask.


According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 30th annual Thanksgiving price survey, a 16-pound turkey costs an average of $23.04 this year. That’s 9 cents per pound higher than last year. The AFBF based its findings on reports from 138 volunteer shoppers, who checked prices at grocery stores in 32 states. Each was asked “to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey.”

But what self-respecting Thanksgiving shopper doesn’t take advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals?

The USDA’s “National Retail Report on Turkey” is conducted every week, and contains more up-to-date and realistic findings. The government agency examines current prices at 20,591 stores across the country, taking actual advertised prices and promotions into account. Its most recent weekly survey found that the price of a frozen turkey was down 18 cents a pound from a week earlier, and down a penny from the same time last year. Fresh turkeys, however, were 10 cents a pound more expensive.

But the frozen section is where the real deals are. The USDA report found frozen turkey prices as low as 37 cents a pound throughout parts of the East Cost and Midwest. Alaska has it worst, with prices starting at 78 cents a pound and going all the way up $2.18 a pound in some stores. And shoppers in the South Central and Southwestern states are least likely to get a good deal – less than half of the stores surveyed in the southern half of the country, west of the Mississippi, featured any advertised turkey price promotions at all.

One thing’s for sure – no matter whether prices are a penny lower or a dime higher than last year – if you want a good deal on a turkey, now’s the best time to get it. So save some room in your freezer if you want to stock up. And if your store is one of those that isn’t offering a special turkey promotion, try checking the store down the street instead – because on Thanksgiving, or any time of year, no one should have to pay full price.

Photo by ReneS

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