The cost of your Thanksgiving turkey will be slightly lower this year, with the centerpiece of your holiday dinner table down 5.6% from the year prior, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 38th annual survey.
The drop in turkey prices—which rests at about $27 for a 16-pound frozen whole turkey—is due to the decrease in poultry affected by the bird flu outbreak that began in 2022.
Farmers have been working hard to reduce the impact of the deadliest bird flu outbreak in U.S. history—which spreads through saliva, nasal secretions and feces—by implementing extra sanitation efforts and upgrading barn ventilation. Birds that are infected with the avian influenza have to be killed, causing more than 4.5 million birds to be slaughtered so far this year. That statistic is steep, but still much lower than the 58 million birds that were impacted in 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Experts say that they are glad to see that the number of impacted animals has reduced, but fear that the virus’s persistence through the summer signals that poultry will “likely always be at risk of the disease.”
“The industry is definitely on really high alert,” Denise Heard, a veterinarian with the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association trade group, told the Associated Press.
The avian flu has tightened the supply of livestock despite consistent demand for chicken, eggs, and other products. That reduction certainly impacted the prices of goods last year; grade A eggs were up 138% in December 2022 compared to 2021, costing about $4.25. By contrast, a carton of a dozen, large white eggs this week are an average of $1.26, per a USDA report released Nov. 17.
The Farm Bureau says that while food inflation and supply chain issues remain elevated, food is more affordable in the U.S. than other countries. On average, Americans are spending only 6.7% of their annual income on food, compared to our neighbors up north in Canada, who spend about 10%.
“While high food prices are a concern for every family, America still has one of the most affordable food supplies in the world. We’ve accomplished that, in part, due to strong farm bill programs,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.
Still, this year is the second most expensive Thanksgiving meal in nearly 40 years. The Farm Bureau tracks the prices of turkey and sides, including cubed stuffing, sweet potatoes, and more, as part of its survey. The cost of most goods went down, with the exception of a veggie tray, 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, sweet potatoes, and a dozen dinner rolls. They increased in price anywhere from 0.3% to 3.7%.