Wednesday, February 28, 2024

OPINION: Count the blessing of a cheaper Thanksgiving feast

by MADI CLARK/Guest Opinion
| November 22, 2023 1:00 AM

This Thanksgiving, pile on an extra helping of sweet potatoes and enjoy a third round of turkey because the total cost of the meal is cheaper than last year’s high. The American Farm Bureau released its 38th annual Thanksgiving dinner survey last week, estimating the cost of the meal for 10 people at $61.17. 

After the last two years of escalating prices, it’s a relief to have a slight downturn, though the meal is still 25% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

There are many things other than the just savings to be grateful for this year. As you gather around the table count these blessings:

1. Households in the United States spend the lowest percentage of their budgets on food compared to other countries, amounting to 6.7 percent.  Less developed countries must spend more of their budgets on food, sacrificing other goods and services. In many countries, this number ranges above 40 to 50 percent.

2. Cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) have dropped off dramatically in 2023, allowing turkey and all poultry production to recover. The 19-month outbreak starting in January 2022, tightened last year’s supply on turkey, increasing the cost, but this year the market has recovered. 219 million turkeys were raised this year, above 2021 and 2022 production numbers. The biggest driver of the lower cost of Thanksgiving dinner this year is the savings on turkey, which decreased 5.6%.

3. The cost of food has inflated less than last year with year over year gains of 3.7%. Compared to 2022, consumers have been much better off because the previous year over year increase was 11.2%. The inflation adjusted cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is $19.88, a decrease from last year.

4. Some of the Mountain States are home to lower grocery costs with consumers in Idaho and Montana finding some of the cheapest groceries in the nation, ranked 48th and 36th. However, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming are more expensive, ranking 17th, 9th and 24th, respectively.

5. Farmers in the United States are resilient. Over the last three years farmers have faced supply chain issues, high fuel prices, increasing input costs, animal disease outbreaks, and the Ukrainian war disrupting global grain supply. Through it all, farmers have adapted to the challenges and continued to provide a safe and secure food supply to the American people. With each new challenge, our agriculturalists figure out solutions, meeting new demands and recovering supplies quickly. 

The cost savings on Thanksgiving dinner 2023 is a sweet relief for consumers, but in a country that favors free market solutions it isn’t a surprise. Farmers in the United States have more access to free market options than many other countries. More available resources and fewer regulations allow families to depend upon the reliable and resilient American farmers who can adapt to supply challenges and recover quickly. Continuing to put free market agriculture first, gives farmers the tools they need to create these many blessings for consumers.

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Madi Clark is a Senior Policy Analyst for the Mountain States Policy Center, an independent free-market research organization based in Idaho. After many experiences in agriculture, Madi and her husband returned to Eastern Oregon’s Treasure Valley in 2019 and started their own hay farm.