Survey says Virginians’ Thanksgiving meal cost decreases

Published 6:31 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Virginians will be able to feed their families a Thanksgiving meal for less than $4.50 per person this year, according to an informal price survey conducted by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

The survey of the price of basic items found on Virginians’ Thanksgiving tables places the average cost of a traditional meal for 10 adults at $44.52. The menu includes turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, rolls, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, milk and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Prices were reported using no promotional sales or coupons.

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VFBF reports this year’s average represents a decrease of $1.93 from the 2014 average total.

The locality surveyed that had the highest average cost for a meal was Powhatan County at $59.83. The locality with the lowest average cost was Carroll County at $31.61.

“This year it will most definitely pay you to shop for your prices, as we are seeing a wide range of prices statewide,” said Jonah Bowles, VFBF agriculture market analyst.

“All livestock prices are down, and turkey hasn’t seen as much of a decrease as other poultry but we are seeing a decline of more than $3 from the 2014 average price for the centerpiece of the meal. We also have seen a decline in dairy prices for the consumer compared to last year.”

Based on surveys of grocery stores throughout Virginia, Farm Bureau found the average cost of a 16-pound turkey was $18.86 or $1.18 per pound. Consumers paid an average of $1.37 per pound last year in the commonwealth.

The organization found that the average price for a gallon of milk was $3.17; for peas, $1.72; for a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $2.70; for celery, $1.52; for carrots, $1.19; for pie shells, $2.30; for whipping cream, $2.10; for canned pumpkin pie filling, $3.14; for cranberries, $2.31; for stuffing mix, $2.96; and for rolls, $2.55 a dozen.

Since VFBF began conducting the survey in 2003, the average cost of a family’s Thanksgiving meal in Virginia has increased by $5.40.

A nationwide informal survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation found the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 to be $50.11. While the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal in Virginia has decreased, the AFBF average cost represents a 70-cent increase over that of 2014. This is the first time in the AFBF survey’s 30-year history that the average total price has been more than $50.

AFBF Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson called that increase “relatively stable behavior for food prices” and noted that it is “probably going to be on the high side” because prices were surveyed before many retailers began offering special Thanksgiving promotions.

According to the AFBF, farmers receive only 16 cents out of every dollar Americans spend on food. The rest goes for costs beyond the farm gate: wages and materials for production, processing, marketing, transportation and distribution. In 1980, farmers and ranchers received 31 cents from each consumer food dollar.

Using that percentage across the board, farmers’ share of the average Thanksgiving meal cost in Virginia would be $7.12 this year.