Unexpectedly Intriguing!
22 November 2023
Thanksgiving Dinner - Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services via U.S. Census Bureau - https://www.census.gov/history/www/homepage_archive/2019/november_2019.html

The American Farm Bureau Federation reports the cost of providing a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner for 10 people in 2023 is 4.5% lower than it was in 2022. The identical grocery items that cost $64.05 a year ago now cost $61.17 according to the Farm Bureau's annual shopping survey.

But as you'll see in the following chart, the cost of that traditional Thanksgiving dinner is still well elevated above what it was in 2020.

Cost of a Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner, 2020 vs 2021 vs 2022 vs 2023

There's a lot of information in the chart showing how prices for the ten items of the AFBF's Thanksgiving dinner shopping list has changed in each year since 2020. We've used clustered columns along its horizontal axis to indicate the annual average price paid for each of the individual items, which are ranked according to their 2021 cost. We've also presented a cumulative cost curve for each year to show how each item adds to the total meal cost that is arrived at on the right-hand side of the chart.

Presenting the data this way lets us see that the increase in the cost of turkey is once again responsible for most of the year-over-year change in the cost of the meal. Here we see the cost of a 16-pound bird declined by 5.6% to $27.35 in 2023. That decline is attributable to the rebound from the negative impact of 2022's avian influenza epidemic on the supply on turkeys during 2022.

Unlike 2022, when only the price of cranberries fell from what they cost the previous year, 2023 saw a larger number of price declines among the items on the AFBF's shopping list. In addition to turkey, the prices for milk, cranberries, pie shells, cubed stuffing, whipping cream, and green peas were lower than their 2022 prices. Altogether, these items saw their prices collectively fall by $3.18.

Meanwhile, the prices of the 1-pound veggie tray, rolls, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie mix rose by a combined $0.30. The total net change is a reduction of $2.88, of which the $1.61 decline in the price of a 16-pound turkey is the biggest component, accounting for 56% of the year-over-year difference.

From 2011 through 2020, the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner held steady within a relatively narrow range between $46.90 (2020) and $50.11 (2015). The cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people remains 30% higher than 2020's level thanks largely to President Biden's inflation.


American Farm Bureau Federation. Farm Bureau: Survey Shows Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Up 14%. [Online Article]. 18 November 2021.

American Farm Bureau Federation. Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Survey: 2022 Year to Year Prices. [PDF Document]. 17 November 2022.

American Farm Bureau Federation. Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Relief, But Still High Relative to Recent Years. [Online Article]. 15 November 2023.

Image Credit: Thanksgiving Dinner. Public domain image by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services via U.S. Census Bureau.

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