Thanksgiving 2015: The Most Expensive Turkey Day Ever

Avian flu has pushed up poultry prices but not nearly as much as some feared.
(Photo: Michael Phillips/Getty Images)
Nov 20, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

These are not easy times to be a poultry farmer. Since last winter, a virulent outbreak of avian flu has decimated poultry flocks up and down the Midwest, resulting in the deaths of more than 48 million birds—7.5 million of them turkeys.

Poultry and poultry product prices have risen as a result, with egg prices soaring to nearly $3 a dozen posted in September—a full 50 percent more than a year prior. Earlier in the year, poultry experts and agriculture economists saw the potential for a Thanksgiving disaster.

While Thanksgiving 2015 will be the most expensive ever, thanks in part to a slight flu-influenced increase in turkey prices, there will be more than enough birds to go around, and the same goes for canned pumpkin.

Turkey prices are up 6.4 percent, according to the annual Turkey Day cost analysis released Thursday by the Farm Bureau, an industry trade group. The overall price of the holiday feast for a family of 10 (with leftovers, naturally) will be just over $50. The market basket that number is based on includes ingredients for “turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk.” So if you’re shelling out more than 25 bucks for a coddled, heritage bird, you’re probably going to blow through the $50 mark on turkey alone—but you will be in the minority, as Butterballs and the like are the majority of what Americans eat to celebrate the holiday.

“Turkey production is down this year but not dramatically,” John Anderson, the bureau’s deputy chief economist, said in a statement. “Our survey shows a modest increase in turkey prices compared to last year. But we’re now starting to see retailers feature turkeys aggressively for the holiday. According to USDA retail price reports, featured prices fell sharply just last week and were actually lower than last year.”

As Turkey Day approaches, the prices of all those birds piled up in the supermarket will continue to drop. The New York Times reported on Thursday that Walmart is selling frozen male turkeys, known as toms, for 87 cents a pound, which is cheaper than the 90-cent-per-pound price in 2014. If you look at the Farm Bureau chart that shows annual Thanksgiving costs adjusted for inflation, well, the overall trend for the last two decades is more or less flat.