Record-high turkey prices, other expensive staples expected this Thanksgiving

Industry experts are already predicting record-high prices for turkey this Thanksgiving as the prices for other dinner staples continue to see prices rise. (Getty)

(NEXSTAR) — It may seem early to be thinking about Thanksgiving, but experts are already predicting the holiday and its traditionally large meal will be expensive, especially the main course: the turkey.

Turkey prices ahead of Thanksgiving could reach record high prices, economists with the American Farm Bureau Foundation said last week.

Last month, the retail price for fresh boneless, skinless turkey breast hit a record high of $6.70 per pound, according to AFBF’s report. That’s 112% higher than the same time last year when it was around $3.16 per pound.

The last time turkey prices were this high was in 2015 when the U.S. was experiencing an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which is contributing to today’s record-high prices.

In February, the USDA warned of HPAI after it was found in three states, adding that it could spread rapidly and wreak havoc on the poultry industry. By early April, HPAI had spread to at least 20 states. The most recent data from the USDA shows cases have been confirmed in 40 states, with Iowa barring the brunt of the impact.

AFBF economists also point to inflation, which has reached levels Americans haven’t seen in years. In August, retail food prices were more than 11% higher than they were during the same time last year. Some of the hardest-hit items include staples of the holiday baking season, like butter, eggs, and flour.

Though turkey prices will likely be higher this year, economists say there shouldn’t be a problem with supply. But higher prices aren’t expected to ease anytime soon.

“The combination of lower production and increased demand will likely keep turkey prices higher for some time looking forward,” Bernt Nelson, an economist at the AFBF, told Nexstar.

AFBF hasn’t released its annual Thanksgiving meal cost projection for this year, but the prices for a number of common items are trending upward, the latest Labor Department data shows. That includes fresh biscuits, rolls, and muffins, which are up 17% over last year; frozen and refrigerated bakery items (like pies and tarts) are up 18%; canned fruit and vegetables at 16%; sauces and gravies at 17%; and potatoes at 15%.

Thanksgiving feasts were forecasted to be expensive last year, too. The AFBF predicted the average cost to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner would be around $53 in 2021, up from $47 in 2020. Since 2011, the average cost has hovered around $50 each year.

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