Cost of Thanksgiving dinner

The average cost of Thanksgiving dinner fell from 2012, according to an American Farm Bureau Federation estimate. (American Farm Bureau Federation / November 14, 2013)

Americans will have to spend just less than $50 on a Thanksgiving feast for 10 people this year, as the estimated average cost of the meal fell 44 cents from last year’s high of $49.48.

This time around, the spread will run consumers $49.04 -- or less than $5 a serving, according to an annual report from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Bless the bird for the decline: A 16-pound turkey costs $21.76 this year, according to an average compiled by 167 volunteer shoppers checking prices at grocery stores across 34 states.

That’s a price tag of $1.36 a pound, shaving off three cents from last year. The group said that likely causes for the slide include slightly higher turkey production over much of the past year and a boost in the number of fowl in cold storage.

The value of turkeys produced last year was $5.4 billion, up 10% from the previous year, according to the U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn. The total number of birds went up 4% to 7.6 billion pounds.

California ranks sixth in nationwide turkey production, behind Minnesota, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana.

When the Farm Bureau survey was first launched in 1986, the nominal cost of the full Thanksgiving dinner was $28.74. The cost has hovered around $49 since 2011.

Besides the turkey this year, goods such as rolls, peas, stuffing cranberries, whipping cream and pie shells became more affordable. Sweet potatoes, whole milk and pumpkin pie mix are slightly more expensive.

“Special sales and promotions on turkey and other holiday food items will continue right up to Thanksgiving,” John Anderson, the group’s deputy chief economist, said in a statement. “If you have the patience to wait until the last minute to buy a turkey, you might come home with an exceptional bargain.”

[Updated Nov. 14, 11:35 a.m.: Soon after the AFBF report was released, Wal-Mart said its customers could get a comparable Thanksgiving meal for $34.86, nearly 30% less than the national average.

The company said it offers a program called Christmas Ad Match, in which customers who see a lower price at a competitor before or after they’ve finished buying groceries from Wal-Mart, the retail giant will match the price.]

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