The Indicator from Planet Money - Thanksgiving Dinner Is The Cheapest In 35 Years

Each year, the American Farm Bureau estimates the cost of Thanksgiving dinner. The main finding this year? Thanksgiving dinner is the cheapest it's been since the survey started 35 years ago.

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Content Keywords: Patty Hirsch dinner John Newton prices turkey

everyone is the indicator from Planet Money is Cardiff and I'm joined today by editor Patty Hirsch. Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving Patty every year right before Thanksgiving the American Farm Bureau sent out hundreds of volunteers Shoppers in the grocery stores all throughout the country all 50 states their mission to find and Report the prices of the ingredients that go into a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in the most mice ordering way possible here is farm bureau chief economist. John Newton listing a bunch of those ingredients Thanksgiving dinner. So you obviously have the turkey so they're checking turkey prices. We've got stuffing sweet potatoes brown and serve rolls Cranberries for the cranberry sauce. Your paschal's your pumpkin pie mix whipping cream a gallon of milk. The prices of these ingredients will be different depending on where you are in the country.

You buy at a Whole Foods in Manhattan is probably going to be more expensive than a turkey you buy at a high V in Iowa partly because the price of everything is higher in Manhattan, but also for economic reasons to John says you also have different supply chain cost to get that bird into a grocery stores, you know in Manhattan, for example, it's going to be more expensive to do that and say put it in a grocery store in in Iowa where you're very close to where turkeys are produced each ingredient across the whole country. Then they have those prices to find the total cost of that classic Thanksgiving dinner in every year John and the Farm Bureau look at the same ingredients so that they can see just how the cost of Thanksgiving dinner has changed through the years and this is the 35th straight Thanksgiving at the Farm Bureau has conducted the survey but this is 20/20. It's a year unlike any other the code pandemic is upended so many parts of our lives.

And that includes the prices of the foods, we love to eat on Thanksgiving and why the price of Thanksgiving is changed not just this year though, but also through the decades.

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The American Farm Bureau is a group that represents Farmers throughout the country and its annual survey. It found that the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people. This year is $46.90. That is today's indicator 4690 on the farm. Bureau. Chief economist. John Newton says that bigger is low really low this down 4% from what we saw last year and it actually is the lowest level that we've seen since 2010. We ask John if you could tell us a Thanksgiving dinner is changed when he does adjust for inflation intercivic Lee, but we wanted to know was if it was possible that Thanksgiving dinner was actually the cheapest it had ever been since the survey was started back in 1986 power up my my spreadsheet just to make sure

Yes, it is. It is the lowest that it's been 35 years. It's been in 35 years.

Are you stunned? Actually? I don't know why I didn't look at it that particular statistic before you asked me to do a little bit of prodding. You know, that's what we journalists are here for John says that you basically have to understand true stories to also understand why Thanksgiving dinner is so cheap this year. There's the short-term story of what happened in 2020 and also the long-term story of what's happened over the last few decades because it was the first story what happened this year the ingredient with the biggest decline in the price is the turkey John says turkey prices came in a dollar 21 per pound that was down 7% from what we saw last year, which means you can put a 16 lb bird on the table for less than $20 this year partly because the pandemic has forced families not to gather together in the same big groups as they normally would so there's just less demand for those big turkeys. That finally is usually buy

That's so sad because a lot of grocery stores have discounts at the price of turkey might be just to get people through the door according to the Department of Agriculture more than 80% of retailers. We're running promotions across the country when we started this survey. So you'll see turkey prices that range anywhere from $0.29 a pound on all the way up to 299 a pound depending on what type of growth you're in another ingredient with a big decline in price this year whipping cream and that's because the price of butter which is used to make whipping cream is also way down and the reason for that John says is it the man for butter from restaurants has fallen tremendously just because so many restaurants have spent at least part of your clothes or just offering take out wasn't offset by people making more cookies at home. And that's why you saw lower butter prices.

Define the cost of Thanksgiving dinner and there's a sweet potato fries sweet potato tot. A lot of those sweet potatoes were destined for the restaurant Channel and yet you're going to last year's crop you getting ready to have a new crop of potatoes this fall. So so expectations are you probably need to move and how do you move them in a lower price for certain types of food in particular some of the fruits that people tend to eat on Thanksgiving and then there's the second the longer-term story to tell and this is actually an easy one to explain because of new technologies and Innovations in how to produce food over the last few decades Farmers have simply become better at it more efficient, which means that they can sell the food for cheaper. You got to recognize that we benefit from high-quality and very affordable food supply and we spend a small percentage of our disposable income on food food in

United States is very affordable. John and the Farm Bureau of course represent Farmers. So he's boosting his peeps there a little bit but the general story did the Agricultural sector in the US has become more and more efficient over time is definitely true. Finally Jones very much recognizes that difficult truth behind this year's Thanksgiving dinner survey which is at the decline in 2 months of certain kinds of traditional Thanksgiving Foods is being driven by a tragedy that it's almost certainly because the pandemic is keeping families apart. He says let's not Overlook. You know what I don't want to get let's not Overlook the fact that some people have one less person sitting at the dinner table with him this Thanksgiving. This virus has touched everybody. It's just my family. I'm sure it's probably touched you so it is going to make Thanksgiving a little bit different this year.

I'm sorry to hear that man. This is everybody in your family. Okay, but my grandmother is is built like a tank. So she's 887 years old. You know, she beat this she's beat the broken hip she's beat diabetes. She peeked answer. So this is just another gold star on. Her shoulder seems like a good place to close with a shout out to John's indestructible Sherman tank of a grandmother and our own wishes for a happy and above all a safe and healthy Thanksgiving for our listeners, especially for those who had a top 2020. We hope the holidays will be restful and restored it for you.

Is episode of the indicator was produced by Jamil Huxtable? In fact check by Shawn saldania. The indicator is edited in this case the co-host and also by Patty Hirsch and it is a production of NPR.
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