American families will spend about 14% more this year on their holiday dinner thanks to higher prices of turkey, flour, eggs and other staples, according to data from Information Resources Inc. Increasing costs of ingredients, production and transportation–coupled with extreme weather and avian influenza outbreaks across the U.S. that affected millions of birds–could add up to what IRI projects to be the most pricey Thanksgiving meal in recent memory.
Here’s what to expect as you head to your grocery store this week.
Center of the plate
Wholesale prices for turkey have increased about 30% from a year ago, said Neil Stern, chief executive of supermarket operator Good Food Holdings LLC, as the bird flu has kept turkey supplies tight and driven up prices. Avian influenza has killed more than 49 million birds in the U.S. this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The grocer, which owns Bristol Farms and Lazy Acres Natural Market, is using more suppliers to prepare for Thanksgiving this year and has limited how much turkey its stores sell in advance of the holiday, Mr. Stern said. Prices of turkey and other Thanksgiving items have increased at levels far beyond the usual, he said: “There are always going to be random things that happen––prices of eggs go up, for instance, but not across the board.”
Whole bird turkey is up 16.7% for the month ended Oct. 30 compared with a year ago, according to IRI data, and bone-in ham is 11.2% higher over the same period.
For consumers up for something less conventional, trying chicken or pork this Thanksgiving could help save some money, industry executives said. Prices of chicken and boneless pork loins have started declining recently, said Scott Karns, CEO of Karns Foods.
The Pennsylvania grocer has been more aggressive with discounting non-holiday items like seafood to draw customers, he said, since Karns has less flexibility with more costly Thanksgiving staples this year. Such promotions could also appeal to shoppers who don’t eat typical Thanksgiving food, grocery executives said.
Heavy rain and intense heat have pushed up the prices of fruit and vegetables this year. This means holiday side dishes will be more costly, too.
Wholesale prices for beans used in casseroles or sides are nearly double what they were a year ago due to heavier rain in the U.S. and beyond, said Stefanie Katzman, executive vice president at produce distributor S. Katzman Produce Inc.
Hurricane Ian, Hurricane Nicole and other tropical storms have curtailed the U.S. bean supply, while Guatemala––a major grower of French string beans often used for Thanksgiving––has received heavy rain all season and isn’t producing as much as needed, she said.
Supplies of lettuce and other vegetables grown along the Western U.S. have been running low due to weather and plant disease, resulting in shortages. Potato production has also taken a hit, as some farmers shifted to planting wheat or grain crops that are in higher demand, Ms. Katzman said.
“It’s a juggling match,” said Jonathan Weis, CEO of Weis Markets Inc. In response to higher prices, some shoppers could look to cut back elsewhere, like buying fewer or more affordable bottles of wine after spending more on food, he said.
There are cheaper options for shoppers in grocery stores, he said, such as Brussels sprouts instead of parsnips or making their own stuffing rather than buying a packaged version.
Bakers be aware
Inflation is hitting the pie.
Start with flour. “There’s a movement of people doing more stuff at home, driving demand,” said Scott Crawford, chief merchandising officer of Fresh Direct LLC. Fresh Direct, an online retailer owned by Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV, estimated that flour prices are up about 14% from a year ago.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove wheat prices to record-high levels earlier this year. Though prices have fallen from the peak, wheat remains more expensive than it was a year ago. Flour is a heavier product and has also been more prone to increases in transportation costs, including prices of diesel used for trucking, industry executives said.
Butter costs about 26% more compared with a year ago, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Labor Department, as labor shortages at processing plants and lower milk production keep prices high. Egg prices have continued to rise, partly due to the avian influenza that has struck egg-laying chicken farms in addition to turkey farms and other birds.
For some of these staples, you might see less-familiar packages or brand names. Fresh Direct and other grocers have been adding more lower-cost brands, including private-label varieties, to offer cheaper options to customers. Some retailers said that they bought condensed milk and other baking staples in advance and that shoppers, too, have started holiday shopping earlier than usual.
Write to Jaewon Kang at email@example.com
Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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