A tale of 240 million turkeys: The supply and price data behind Thanksgiving dinner

How much will it cost to put Thanksgiving dinner on the table this year? One cent more than it did last year, according to a national survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The average price for a basket of a dozen Thanksgiving staples — including turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie — is $48.91 this year, up from $48.90 last year, according to the survey. The survey was conducted by more than 250 volunteers checking prices at grocery stores in 38 states, according to the Farm Bureau.

The nominal price of Thanksgiving with all the fixings has barely budged over the last decade. Since 2011, the meal’s price in current dollars has not dropped below $49.04 (2013) or risen above $50.11 (2015).

The centerpiece of the feast, the turkey, accounts for more than 40% of the cost of the meal, according to the Farm Bureau’s survey. The price of that big bird has remained relatively steady in recent years.

The average price for a pound of turkey in the U.S. through October of this year has been $1.54, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That means a 16-pound bird costs about $24.70.

The average annual price of turkey has fluctuated minimally since 2011, peaking at $1.65 per pound (2015) and bottoming out at $1.50 (2018).

Where do all these turkeys come from? Thirteen states, mostly in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, account for the lion’s (turkey’s?) share of domestic production. The top six states account for two-thirds of that production.

All told, the U.S. is projected to produce 240 million turkeys this year, according to the USDA.

Minnesota leads the way, totaling about 42 million turkeys in 2018 and a projected 40 million this year. Missouri ranks sixth, at 19 million both years.

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