Virginians will be able to feed their families a Thanksgiving meal for less than $6.50 per person this year, according to an informal price survey conducted by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
The survey of common grocery items found on Thanksgiving tables places the average cost of a traditional meal for 10 adults at $63.66, or $6.37 per person. The menu includes turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, rolls, carrots, celery, cranberries, green beans, peas, milk and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Prices were reported by volunteer shoppers around the state using no promotional sales or coupons.
This year’s statewide average is a $3.33 or 5.52% increase from the 2020 average price of $60.33 for a 10-person meal.
The fact that 2021’s Thanksgiving meal price tag has increased should not be surprising considering the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in October that the cost of all food is up more than 5% from a year ago.
“While supply chain and workforce issues are plaguing all sectors of the economy, traditional Thanksgiving dinner ingredients are still readily available at grocery stores across Virginia,” noted Elijah Griles, a VFBF commodity specialist.
“Our farmers work hard to put food on Virginians’ tables, and despite the global pandemic and the challenges it has presented them, they have persevered. We are thankful for their work and the abundance they provide us during the Thanksgiving season,” he added.
This is the 18th year Virginia Farm Bureau has conducted the survey, which is based on an annual survey organized by American Farm Bureau Federation.
Volunteer shoppers checked prices online and in person at 33 grocery stores across the state. According to the results, Farm Bureau found the average cost of a 16-pound turkey was $25.17, or about $1.57 per pound. The 2020 average was $1.40 per pound.
The organization discovered the average price for a 4-pound bone-in ham was $8.47; a gallon of whole milk was $3.22; frozen peas, $1.22; frozen green beans, $1.24; three pounds of sweet potatoes, $2.80; a 5-pound bag of russet potatoes, $3.45; fresh celery, $1.56; fresh carrots, $.89; two pie shells, $2.36; whipping cream, $1.63; canned pumpkin pie filling, $3.44; fresh cranberries, $2.30; stuffing mix, $2.75; and a dozen dinner rolls, $3.17.
The locality with the highest average cost for a meal this year was Ruckersville in Greene County at $81.80. The locality with the lowest average cost was Rockbridge County at $45.29.
“We are proud that our Virginia farmers produce quality food,” shared VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor. “And we hope that when people sit down to their Thanksgiving meal that they will appreciate the farmers who provided the main ingredients.”
While statewide ham and turkey prices were higher this year, cranberries, sweet potatoes, carrots and frozen peas and beans were less expensive overall.
“Meat has seen increased retail prices recently, and turkey is no exception,” Griles explained. “This is largely a result of limited processing capacity due to worker shortages, a lack of trucks and a reduction in cold storage stocks as many consumers have demanded smaller birds and purchased turkeys earlier than before.”
Nationally, the AFBF informal survey found the average cost of a classic Thanksgiving meal for 10 was $53.31, a 14% increase from $46.90 in 2020. This price does not include ham, russet potatoes and green beans, which were added in 2018. Virginia’s average price of a Thanksgiving meal without those three items is $50.50.
When ham, potatoes and beans were added to the AFBF tally, the average cost of a U.S. Thanksgiving meal is $68.72—a 14% increase from $60.11 in 2020.
The main factor contributing to the significant rise in the overall price was a 24% increase in the average retail price for turkeys, noted Dr. Roger Cryan, chief economist for AFBF. He cited inflation and supply chain issues as the main factors increasing the price of turkey.
The AFBF also reported that volunteer shoppers checked prices Oct. 26 through Nov. 8, about two weeks before most grocery store chains began featuring whole frozen turkeys at sharply lower prices.