UACES Facebook Higher feed prices, demand for protein helping drive up Thanksgiving meal prices
skip to main content

Higher feed prices, demand for protein help drive up Thanksgiving meal prices

Fast facts:

    • ARFB survey finds cost per person rising to $4.62 in 2014 from $4.26 in 2013
    • Poultry feed price increases help drive cost
    • Cranberries, cubed stuffing saw price decreases

 (598 words)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark -- Higher costs for poultry feed and higher global demand for protein are among the backseat drivers in the rising cost of this year’s Thanksgiving meal.

In its annual survey, the Arkansas Farm Bureau said the cost to prepare this year’s Thanksgiving meal was up to $4.62 per person from $4.26 last year. Farm Bureau attributed the rise to, among other things, an increase in the average cost of a frozen turkey and the price of whole milk. 

However, prices declined slightly for other Thanksgiving staples such as cubed stuffing and cranberries.

Keith Bramwell, extension poultry specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said that in general, the primary cost associated with both chicken and turkey was feed costs, although overall meal costs for consumers may be tied more closely to shoppers seeking niche market products.

“As a general rule, agricultural costs are going up a little bit. And I think some of that is the movement toward organic, free-range stuff, and that just has a higher cost,” Bramwell said. “But I think your typical person who fixes his or her thanksgiving meal, if they haven’t switched over to looking at that type of avenue, they may not quite see that big of an increase in that type of a meal.”

Travis Justice, chief economist for Arkansas Farm Bureau, attributes the price hike primarily to higher costs of production and increased demand for dairy products. 

“Turkey prices have risen this year as a result of production cutbacks by growers who are facing higher feed and transportation costs,” Justice said. “Milk and other dairy product prices are higher, again due to feed costs, plus poor weather conditions and a growing global demand for U.S. dairy-based items.”

“Other elements of the meal, namely cereal grain-based foods and vegetables, vary slightly from last year, with the exception of sweet potatoes, whose prices have risen due to weather-related production problems and its increasing popularity as a health food,” he said.

According to the Farm Bureau’s statewide survey, the average price of a 16-pound young tom turkey this year increased $2.49 to $18.08, or $1.13 per pound, above with overall rises in retail turkey sales nationwide. American Farm Bureau reported an average of $1.35 per pound.

Another major driver of the survey is the cost of a gallon of whole milk. After dropping to $4 in 2013 the average increased to $4.25 this year. Also contributing to the price hike was a 59-cent increase in the cost of a half-pint carton of whipping cream and 55-cent increase for three pounds of sweet potatoes.

Harold Goodwin, professor-Agricultural Economics and Business in the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said prices on milk and other high-protein staples are also being affected by increased overseas demand.

“There’s a lot of protein demand around the world,” Goodwin said. “As incomes go up in other countries, the first thing they switch to is more protein.”

Goodwin said ongoing drought in California is also driving up some produce prices.

Other items included in the meal that saw an increase in price were:

    • A package of frozen green peas, up seven cents;
    • A pound of carrots, up 19 cents;
    • And the combined average cost of miscellaneous items included in the meal such as coffee, eggs, flour, and butter, which increased 28 cents.

 Items that saw modest price reductions include:

    • Cubed stuffing,
    • A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix,
    • A two-count package of frozen pie shells,
    • 12-count package of brown and serve rolls,
    • A celery bunch,
    • And a 12-ounce package of cranberries.

Cranberry growers in Wisconsin and Canada were reporting record crops.

 For more information on food preparation and shopping smart, contact your county extension office or visit

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

By Ryan McGeeney
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Ryan McGeeney
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

Related Links