Thanks to retailers, the cost of Thanksgiving dinner will stay the same as a year ago.
Turkeys, the main component of the traditional holiday dinner, are priced slightly higher than in 2011, but again most grocers are absorbing the increase.
“Turkey costs to the retailers are up 5 to 10 percent,” said Joe Kolavo, vice president of perishable operations for the Highland-based Stack & Van Til chain of 30 stores. “Retail prices are fairly consistent with last year even though the cost has climbed.”
Jewel/Osco spokeswoman Karen May agreed.
“Turkey prices for Jewel-Osco customers will be relatively comparable to last year, as will prices on other Thanksgiving dinner items,” she said. “Also, turkeys will once again be a loss leader for us.”
Loss leaders are items priced lower than retail to lure customers in stores. Thanksgiving turkeys normally fit into that category.
“Our costs (for turkeys) are 10 cents higher this year, but the cost to our customers is going to be very comparable to last year,” said Don Weiss, president of the WiseWay grocery chain. “It’s an investment in our sales for Thanksgiving, a way to bring in customers when their budgets are still under pressure from the economy.”
WiseWay is selling Butterball-brand 10 to 12 pound frozen birds at 88 cents a pound and Norbest brand frozen turkeys at 48 cents per pound, each with a limit of one and a $50 purchase.
Stracks’ Kolavo said keeping Thanksgiving turkey prices low is one way his chain to “trying to take care of its customers.”
“We put a limit of one at the low sale price and have a modest purchase requirement because we do sell these turkeys at below our acquisition costs,” he said. “We want to take care of our regular customers. We don’t want people to buy 10 for restaurants or even to resell them.”
At a time when most meat prices are climbing because of a huge spike in the cost of corn and other feeds, turkey is a real bargain, Kolavo said.
“If you think about it turkey a real bargain compare to other meat prices,” he said. “And if you think about it, any protein selling for under $1 a pound is a bargain.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual informal price cost of Thanksgiving dinner survey indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.48, a 28-cent price increase from last year’s average. The federation’s survey includes the price for the turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk.
The survey’s largest cost is for a 16-pound turkey, which it places at $22.23, or about $1.39 per pound, an increase of about 4 cents per pound compared to 2011.
Dave Harvey, U.S. Department of Agriculture economist for the poultry industry, said the wholesale cost to suppliers depended on when they locked in their supply, he said.
According to the Farm Bureau, many producers' contractual prices with retailers were set this spring when feed was far cheaper, as U.S. farmers began planting what looked like would be a record corn crop. The expectations for a bumper autumn harvest evaporated as the worst drought in half a century devastated crops and sent corn and soybean prices to record highs this summer, the bureau said.
Corinne Alexander, Purdue University Agricultural Economist, said if retailers have locked in prices that are lower it should be good for consumers.
“There’s always the timing piece in pricing,” she said. “Some grocers will be in position where they can offer lower prices. There will be discounts available so consumers should shop around.”