“The inflation is real. Everybody is saying that. Everybody is feeling it,” said Butterball President and CEO Jay Jandrain. “Whether it’s labor, transportation, packaging materials, energy to fuel the plants — everything costs more.” North Carolina-based Butterball, which supplies around one-third of Thanksgiving turkeys, struggled to attract workers earlier this year, leading to processing delays. While turkeys waited, they grew bigger, adding to already skyrocketing costs for corn and soybean feed.
The Thanksgiving table hasn’t been spared the price inflation that is rampant elsewhere in the economy because of strong consumer demand and labor shortages. The American Farm Bureau estimates a Thanksgiving feast for 10, complete with sweet potatoes, rolls, a vegetable tray and a pie with whipped cream, will cost $53.31 this year, up 14% from a year ago. It’s an unusual spike. Before this year, the annual cost estimate had been falling since 2015. More from AP LifestylesYes, there are turkeys for Thanksgiving – for a priceSalsa verde tacos salvage dry leftover turkeyTarget to keep stores closed on Thanksgiving for goodBrit Awards scrap separate male, female prize categories
But Jandrain said labor shortages have lessened and the company was able to secure enough trucks to get its turkeys to grocery stores. So there will be about the same number of whole turkeys as last year, but fewer smaller birds. “The good news about that is everybody loves the after-Thanksgiving leftovers, and they are going to have more of them this year,” Jandrain said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average wholesale price of an 8- to 16-pound frozen turkey in mid-November was $1.35 per pound, up 21% from a year ago. For other staples, weather conditions compounded labor shortages. Pumpkin crops were smaller due to heavy rains and a fungus in Illinois — a top supplier — and drought in California. In early November, fresh pumpkins were averaging $2.72 per pound, up 5% from a year ago, according to Nielsen IQ. Prices for green beans were up 4% while canned cranberry sauce was up 2.5%. Ryanne Bowyer of Dallas, Texas, usually buys turkey a day or two after Thanksgiving to save money. But this year, she signed up for Ibotta, a receipt-scanner app, which gave her a turkey, potatoes, corn, soup, gravy and cornbread from Walmart — all free — just for signing up. “If that hadn’t come along, the plan was just to go to the woods with my wife and grill wieners,” Bowyer joked.
Still, many retailers facing cost pressures of their own are pulling back on their usual Thanksgiving promotions. In the week before Thanksgiving, the number of U.S. stores offering specials on turkeys was at the lowest level since 2017, said Mark Jordan, the executive director of Leap Market Analytics, which follows the livestock and poultry markets. “There will still be some discounts, but some of the extreme giveaways are going to be fewer and farther between,” Jordan said.
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