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Cost of Thanksgiving feast higher in Arkansas survey

John Moore/Getty Images Thanksgiving meal
Arkansas Farm Bureau's 2018 survey adds ham, russet potatoes, green beans to shopping list

The average cost of the traditional Thanksgiving meal this year is higher than in 2017, according to Arkansas Farm Bureau’s 33rd annual survey of food items typically included in the holiday feast. And, for the first time, the survey includes ham, russet potatoes and green beans. This year’s meal will cost $52.93 for a family of 10, up $8.35 from last year’s average of $44.58, $5.29 per person.

Travis Justice, chief economist for Arkansas Farm Bureau, says this year’s survey reflects an “unprecedented” third consecutive year of lower retail food prices.

“Despite the fact three new items were added to the shopping list, retail prices in Arkansas reflect a 10 percent decline from last year,” said Justice. “In the protein sector, 2018 marks the fourth year in a row of record total meat production,” he added. “Despite strong domestic consumer demand, these record tonnages of meat, along with declines in pork exports, particularly to China, have pressured consumer meat prices lower.”

The statewide average is based on responses from members of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee and other volunteers who surveyed food prices at eight grocery stores and supermarkets across the state. They were asked to report the “best in-store price” of 15 items included in the meal and are allowed to take advantage of advertised specials, excluding discount coupons and purchase requirements.

Arkansas food prices continue to remain more affordable than elsewhere. American Farm Bureau’s national survey of price trends for the holiday feast, including the three new menu items, revealed an average of $61.72.

“America consumers will benefit this year from another record supply of poultry and pork products,” said Arkansas Farm Bureau president Randy Veach. “We are blessed with the most abundant and affordable food supply in the world and, as we do each Thanksgiving, many families and charitable organizations will share the meal with those who are not as fortunate. That is truly reason to give thanks.”

Veach said the fact consumers continue to enjoy the holiday meal for a little more than $5 a person, on average, is a result of the efficiency of the nation’s food production system.

“Grain prices continue to remain low and our farmers are feeling the effects of the tariff war with China,” he said. “As in most years, the weather affected crop production and harvest, but despite this, because of research and the latest technological advancements, they are able to hold down their cost of production,” Veach said.

Though unscientific, the survey is intended to be a snapshot of actual prices across Arkansas and the nation. The survey period was Oct.26 to Nov. 6.

The average cost of a 16-pound young tom turkey was $13.88 or 87 cents per pound. That’s down from $1.08 per pound in 2017.

American Farm Bureau’s national survey reported an average of $21.71 or $1.36 per pound for the whole bird.

A new item on the list is a four-pound half bone-in ham at $6.59 or $1.65 per pound. Turkey and ham are centerpiece items in most dinners and drive the cost of the meal.

Other new items in the shopping list this year are a 5-pound bag of russet potatoes which cost $5.07 or $1.01 per pound, and a 16-ounce package of green beans which cost $1.32. The average cost of a gallon of whole milk dropped 37 cents to $2.64.

The remaining items surveyed included a package of fresh cranberries, three pounds of sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, frozen green peas, pie shells, stuffing mix, dinner rolls, pumpkin pie mix and a ½-pint carton of whipping cream.

Source: Arkansas Farm Bureau

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