Thanksgiving Turkey Costs Soar Nearly 16 Percent From Last Year

A family enjoys Thanksgiving turkey, in Stamford Conn., on Nov. 24, 2016. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Americans are paying more for Thanksgiving turkeys this year, with a new survey from NielsenIQ indicating that turkey prices have risen nearly 16 percent compared to a year ago.

According to NielsenIQ data, the price of whole uncooked turkeys in the four weeks before Nov. 6 rose 15.6 percent from the same period in 2020.

Nielsen data largely dovetails with recent figures published by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), which spanned the period of Oct. 26 to Nov. 8 and estimated that this year’s Thanksgiving dinner will cost around 14 percent more, driven mostly by higher turkey prices.

AFBF said in a release that the average price over the period surveyed was $23.99 for a 16-pound bird, which is roughly $1.50 per pound, up 24 percent from last year.

“Several factors contributed to the increase in average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” AFBF Senior Economist Veronica Nigh said in a statement. “se include dramatic disruptions to the U.S. economy and supply chains over the last 20 months; inflationary pressure throughout the economy; difficulty in predicting demand during the COVID-19 pandemic and high global demand for food, particularly meat.”

One of the factors pushing up turkey prices was that fewer turkeys were produced, with some food companies and farmers predicting many consumers would downsize Thanksgiving due to the pandemic, Reuters reports.

Diestel Family Ranch, which produces turkeys in Sonora, California, raised birds of about the same size for 2021 as it did for 2020, farmer Heidi Diestel told Reuters, avoiding guesses on how the pandemic would change demand. ranch added a few extra petite birds that weigh six to 10 pounds, she said, because they can be eaten year round if not sold for the holidays.

“Trying to predict this crazy world seemed like we should leave that to others,” Diestel said. “We didn’t really want to go there.”

Butterball CEO Jay Jandrain told Fox News in a recent interview that it’s likely American families will see more expensive Thanksgiving turkeys this year and that smaller ones will be harder to find as inflation remains stubbornly high and the supply chain crunch roils on.

Jandrain told the outlet on Nov. 2 that, while he doesn’t expect overall shortages of turkeys, “we do see there will be fewer small turkeys this year,” and advised shoppers to “go out to the stores and get them as early as you can.”

At the same time, Jandrain said retailers have been ordering more turkeys in the face of increased demand and it’s “reasonable to expect” higher prices.

“We have seen food prices increase overall. That’s something we’ve all experienced recently. While we don’t set the prices for our retailers, it is reasonable to expect there will be some increase of costs this year,” Jandrain said.

Frozen inventories of hen turkeys, female birds that are normally smaller in size, and turkey breasts fell to record lows this year and were down 19 percent and 51 percent from last year by the end of September, respectively, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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