After low prices the last few years, wholesale turkey prices increased during the pandemic by about 15 percent over last year. The increase will hit those with lower incomes especially hard.
The Indiana Farm Bureau (INFB) projects a 16 lbs turkey will cost about 30 percent more than it did a year ago.
COVID-19 put a strain on food supply chains in the spring as people bought more from supermarkets and cut back on eating out.
Purdue University agricultural economist Jayson Lusk said the national average for increases in food prices historically is around 2 percent annually. Right now, it’s about 4 percent.
“So we are seeing higher food price inflation than normal, and that will tend to have a larger effect on lower income consumers,” said Lusk. “Lower income consumers spend a higher share of their income on food and so that those impacts will be most heavily felt by the lower income consumers.”
He said an increase in smaller gatherings could also cause more people to opt for a smaller turkey than they would have in previous years.
While food prices have come down since earlier in the pandemic, the uncertainty in the market still leaves some food staples higher in costs compared to last year.
The INFB’s annual Thanksgiving meal buyer survey shows Hoosiers can expect to pay about 12 percent more for their holiday meal compared to last year.
Lusk said calculating estimates for turkey prices for this year has been a little more challenging than previous years since the Bureau of Labor Statistics hasn’t reported a retail turkey price since February.
“They normally send out thousands of workers to all the grocery stores and collect these data in person,” he said. “But when COVID hit, they decided to switch and try to collect some of those data online. And because of that switch, they just weren't able to find a comparable set of prices for some products. So they just reduce the volume of data they were collecting. So in some ways, we're really flying blind this year, and even having a sense of what retail consumers are going to pay for things like turkey.”
The INFB lists sweet potatoes and cranberries as a few of this year’s Thanksgiving items with lower prices from last year.