thanksgiving meal feast plate serving

Be Thankful for Less Expensive Thanksgiving Meal, AFBF Survey Says

Nov. 21, 2023
The average price of a classic Thanksgiving meal has dropped, but it is still the second-most expensive year to feast since the American Farm Bureau Federation began tracking prices 38 years ago.

For U.S. food shoppers seeking something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, they can consider the price of their Thanksgiving meal to offer them some relief, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF)’s 38th annual Thanksgiving dinner survey.

The AFBF found that a “classic” Thanksgiving feast for 10 will run approximately $6.12 per guest (a total of $61.17) — a 4.5% decline from last year’s historically high prices … but still 25% higher than 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s drop, AFBF says, was driven by a slide in the price of turkey, which AFBF attributes to a decrease in avian influenza cases and flock recovery.

The survey includes respondents from all 50 states and Puerto Rico who visited local grocery stores between Nov. 1 and 6, and reported on the prices of products found on the typical U.S. Thanksgiving meal table. “Volunteer shoppers,” as the survey calls them, relayed price data on the “classics”: turkey, cubed stuffing, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, frozen peas, fresh cranberries, celery, carrots, pumpkin pie mix, pie shells, whipping cream and whole milk (AFBF also tracks “Misc. ingredients to prepare the meal”). In addition, data was collected on boneless ham, Russet potatoes and frozen green beans — adding those items to the feast lifted the average meal cost by about $2.36 per person.

Among the 12 classic items surveyed, prices rose for only four: a relish tray (made of fresh celery and carrots), sweet potatoes, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie mix, with the latter two items increasing the most, at 3.8% and 3.0% respectively. The largest percentage price drop was seen in whipping cream (22.8%) and fresh cranberries (18.3%). For cranberries, AFBF says the decrease can be attributed to expanded supply confirmed by August production estimates attained from the Cranberry Marketing Committee, as well as a 33% volume increase on fresh cranberry imports (year to date, Jan.-Sept., as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau).

The price change in whipping cream, AFBF believes, brings the item back in line with historical price trends, after a 26% increase in 2022. That said, volunteer shoppers had trouble finding half-pints of whipping cream, so the survey adjusted to price out a full pint and recalculate the price to represent half a pint — which may skew the info based on discounts per ounce when buying a larger volume.

All that said, AFBF’s survey shows that 2023 will still feature the second-most expensive Thanksgiving meal in the 38-year history of the report. Inflation in food prices remains a real issue, the federation said, constraining household budgets across the nation, and farmers and ranchers will continue to work toward alleviating that burden while keeping the food supply strong and safe.

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.

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