Cost of average dinner taking smaller slice out of consumers' budgets

2013-11-23T22:30:00Z 2013-11-25T12:50:19Z Cost of average dinner taking smaller slice out of consumers' budgetsAndrea Holecek Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
November 23, 2013 10:30 pm  • 

You may want to include your local grocer when you give thanks for your blessing this year.

Supermarkets again are offering holiday turkeys significantly below their wholesale cost, said Joe Kolavo, vice president of perishable operations for the Highland-based Stack & Van Til chain of 20 Strack & Van Tils, 15 Ultra and two Town & Country stores.

“Retailers are still selling below our acquisition costs as we have always done,” he said. “We’re expecting to be very competitive as we always are and expect our competition to do that as well.”

The chain expects to sell more than 2 million pounds of turkey during the week of the holiday, Kolavo said.

The wholesale price of turkeys has increased from a year ago, as they have every year for the past five, while the cost to consumers has not, he said.

“The loss for retailers continues to grow,” Kolavo said. “The wholesale price per pound is around a dollar to a $1.75 depending on what you (brand and fresh or frozen) buy. They’re nothing like the retail prices. There isn’t a penny made on turkeys during the week of Thanksgiving.”

Yet retailers readily admit they discount turkeys and other ingredients of the typical Thanksgiving meal to attract shoppers and to promote goodwill.

“We like to happy customers,” Kolavo said.

The American Farm Bureau estimates the cost of the typical Thanksgiving dinner for a 10 to be $49.04, a drop of 48 cents from 2012 prices. That dinner includes a 16-pound turkey, rolls, peas, stuffing, fresh cranberries, sweet potatoes, relishes, pumpkin pie, and whipped cream, milk and other assorted ingredients.

“This year we can be thankful that Thanksgiving Dinner, a special meal many of us look forward to all year, will not take a bigger bite out of our wallets,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist in a statement. “Most Americans will pay about the same as last year at the grocery store for a turkey and all the trimmings."

Slightly higher turkey production for much of the year coupled with an increase in birds in cold storage may be responsible for the moderate price decrease our shoppers reported, he said.

Yet for many, the affordability of a Thanksgiving turkey dinner with all the trimmings loses a lot of its luster because of the time and preparation it’s production requires. There are alternatives.

Valparaiso’s Strongbow Inn will feed many of those unwilling or unable to take on the challenge and the many revelers who enjoy the popular restaurant’s food and ambiance.

The restaurant was acquired by Luke Co. earlier this year from Russ and Nancy Adams. Russ Adams grandparents founded the restaurant in the 1930s.

“Nothing has changed,” said its executive chef David Hemdal. “Nothing at all. Diners are attracted by its attracted because of its tradition quality and history and none of that is different.”

The restaurant is expected to serve about 2,700 customers on the holiday using about 10,000 pounds of turkey to serve both those who dine in that day and for its holiday carry-out orders.

Between 650 to 700 pounds of ham, 20,000 dinner rolls and 750 pounds of cranberries also will be used, he said.

Hemdal locks in the price of his turkeys well in advance which enabled him to maintain about the same price per pound on whole turkeys as in 2012.

However, prices for the turkey tenderloin and drumsticks have climbed, he said.

“Prices that I have locked in have remained steady for three years,” he said. "In 2010 they took quite a dramatic jump of 11 percent.”

When supermarkets begin advertising their turkey sale prices, it can affect the restaurant’s bookings, Hemdal said.

“It hurts us when ads come out and we can’t compare with that,” he said. “They’re using it as a loss leader. I’m buying a premium product, a minimally processed, dressed turkey, with no preservatives, no additives, no injections of salt water that adds liquid and weight to the bird.

“Our turkeys taste different than anyone else because it just turkey tasting what it should taste like,” he said. “A fresh turkey.”

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