Special Report

Cost of a Thanksgiving Meal the Year You Were Born

Detailed Findings & Methodology

A number of factors can impact the price of traditional Thanksgiving foods. For example, increases in cold storage inventories have expanded the U.S. supply of frozen turkeys by nearly 10% compared to last year. The greater supply lowered the retail cost of turkey. The average price of a 16-pound turkey fell from $22.74 in 2016 to $22.38 in 2017, the lowest since 2014.

The price of milk has also fallen in recent years due to increased production levels. According to the AFBF, the average price of a gallon of milk today is $2.99, the lowest point since 2009.

While the price of the average Thanksgiving meal today is nearly 10 times as high as it was in 1947, the retail cost of food has actually declined significantly over the past seven decades when adjusted for inflation. The trend in falling real food prices has been made possible by an excess supply of dairy products, meat, and grains, as well as low energy costs in food transportation and refrigeration. Adjusted for inflation, the price of Thanksgiving dinner today is $10 lower than it was 70 years ago. The real cost of Thanksgiving dinner has fallen below $5 per person — less than the cost of most fast food.

To determine the cost of a Thanksgiving meal every year from 1947 to 2016, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed price data from the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Thanksgiving price survey. The survey collects data on the prices of items consumed in a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 10. The data is gathered by a team of volunteer shoppers around the country, and the survey first started in 1986. The AFBF found every year that the change in the cost of the Thanksgiving meal tracks closely with the changing price of food at home as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For years prior to 1986, 24/7 Wall St. adjusted the cost of a Thanksgiving meal and its individual components using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ consumer price index for food at home in November from 1947 to 1985. The results of Thanksgiving Day NFL games each year came from the Pro Football Hall of Fame website.

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