Turkey talk

The Arkansas Farm Bureau has released its annual Thanksgiving food basket cost.

The average cost of the traditional Thanksgiving meal reflects an increase for the second year in a row.

Arkansas Farm Bureau’s 34th annual survey covers food items typically included in the holiday feast. This year’s meal will cost $57.75 for a family of 10, up $4.82 from last year’s average of $52.93.

Mark Lambert, director of Commodity Activities and Economics for Arkansas Farm Bureau, said the price farmers receive for their crops and livestock have remained relatively flat the past four years resulting in record lows in net farm income. He said farmers and ranchers receive only eight cents of every dollar consumers spend on food.

“This is the fifth year in a row of record protein production in the meat sector,” said Lambert. “The cost of protein has increased from last year primarily due to decreased ending stocks and slightly higher feed costs. The inventory of frozen turkey stocks decreased by 15 percent from 2018, while ham inventory is down from record stocks in 2016 with the farm price received for pork remaining low. These factors have led to the increase in retail poultry and pork prices.”

“Relatively speaking the consumer price index for food at home rose one percent meaning food prices are relatively stable, considering global trade concerns,” Lambert said.

The statewide average is based on responses from members of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee and other volunteers who surveyed food prices at 13 grocery stores and supermarkets across the state. They were asked to report the “best in-store price” of 15 items included in the meal and are allowed to take advantage of advertised specials, excluding discount coupons and purchase requirements.

Arkansas food prices continue to remain more affordable than elsewhere. American Farm Bureau’s national survey revealed an average price of $62.32 or roughly $6.23 per person.

Though unscientific, the survey is intended to be a snapshot of actual prices across Arkansas and the nation. The survey period was November 1-17.

The average cost of a 16-pound young tom turkey was $16.92 or $1.06 per pound. That’s up from 87 cents per pound in 2018. American Farm Bureau’s national survey reported an average of $20.80 or $1.30 per pound for the whole bird. The average price of a four-pound half bone-in ham is $8.25 or $2.06 per pound, up from $1.65 per pound last year. The cost of protein products such as turkey and ham are the major drivers of the cost of the meal.

Other items in the shopping list that reflected price increases are a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes which cost $3.16 or $1.05 per pound, and a gallon of whole milk which averaged $3.29, up 65 cents from $2.64 last year.

The remaining items surveyed included a package of fresh cranberries, a five-pound bag of russet potatoes, carrots, celery, frozen green peas and green beans, pumpkin pie mix and pie shells, stuffing mix, dinner rolls, and a ½-pint carton of whipping cream.

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