Area residents express concerns over rising Thanksgiving grocery costs

Published 8:41 am Tuesday, November 22, 2022

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With a few days left until Thanksgiving, Chambers County residents are buying everything they need for Thanksgiving and reacting to rising prices.  As inflation continues to affect groceries nationwide, it is expected that Thanksgiving will be more expensive this year than it has been previously. One Valley resident, Latasha Sims, said that the rising prices have put a large strain on her family. 

“Since I was little, my mama would cook a turkey that all of the kids and grandkids would eat through Christmas, but we can’t do it this year,” Sims said. “I am a single mom with four kids and Christmas is coming up. It just costs too much right now.”

According to a report from the market research company IRi, the cost of the traditional Thanksgiving meal in 2022 is estimated to cost 13.5% more than a year ago. When looking at data from the American Farm Bureau, that’s up from the $53.31 average cost of a Thanksgiving meal for 10 in 2021 and $46.90 two years ago in 2020. In their data, the AFB said the typical Thanksgiving dinner includes the staples of a 16-pound turkey, a gallon of milk, potatoes, ham, and dinner rolls. 

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U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data shows that an 8 to 16 pound turkey cost $1.99 per pound on Oct. 21, up from $1.15 at the same time last year. That represents almost a 75% increase. This increased price has caused some Valley residents to leave out the staple thanksgiving bird from their dinner on Thursday.

“We are only doing a ham this year,” said Jimmy Brooks, a citizen of Valley. “Turkeys cost too much, and I don’t have the time to cook it this year because I am working extra hours. It is what it is though, we are still going to have a good year.”

A large reason for the higher price has been due to the recent outbreak of the continuous bird flu. The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus usually becomes prevalent in the colder months, but commercial turkey producers struggled with the flu in July, the time of year when farmers begin raising flocks for the coming holiday season.

So far this year, nearly 48 million birds have been affected, with the disease detected in 42 states. The only way to limit its spread is to kill entire flocks, which can consist of about 15,000 birds.

Experts believe that transmission has increased immensely over the past year, and the illness is spreading to mammals at a faster pace. Scientists are unsure why the outbreak is intensifying, but some theories argue that mutations have allowed the virus to replicate and infect a variety of bird species. AFB President Zippy Duvall noted how the virus would affect the prices of turkeys in a public press release.

“All of us are feeling the pain of higher prices at the grocery store,” Duvall said. “HPAI outbreaks in the spring and an uptick in cases in the fall are taking a toll, but farmers remain dedicated to ensuring America’s food supply remains strong.”

Turkey is not the only stable Thanksgiving food suffering from high prices. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of boneless ham increased 13.6% in September from a year ago to $5.50 per pound. Additionally, the cost of white potatoes has spiked 27.7% to $1.02 per pound, while the cost of a loaf of white bread has increased 10.7% to $1.75 a pound. The average price of a gallon of fresh whole milk has also increased 16.6% to $4.18. The prices of a wide range of miscellaneous ingredients have also increased at a significant rate over the past year including butter, flour, gravy and coffee. 

With these rising prices, many people are foregoing a traditional thanksgiving meal altogether. Valley resident Sandra Mann noted that her family would celebrate in a different way.

“It is too expensive, and it takes too much time for me to cook all the food at home like we normally do,” Mann said. “Me and my family are just going to go to Waffle House and call it a day. It’s going to be cheaper, and I don’t have to cook.” 

Despite the challenges facing this year, Mann is still positive that the holiday season will be enjoyable for her family.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you eat, it matters that you are spending time with your family,” Mann said. “I am as upset about [high prices] as much as the next person, but I just want to enjoy the holidays.”