Inflation, turkey trouble eating into Midlands families’ Thanksgiving budgets

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Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 9:08 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Inflation is eating into some Midlands families’ Thanksgiving budgets this fall.

According to a new survey from the American Farm Bureau Association, a Thanksgiving feast with a dozen of the holiday’s staples, including turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, will cost 20 percent more than it did in 2021.

Some Midlands shoppers say they are frustrated about the rising costs, and a few are tightening their budgets, looking to cut costs where they can, but many said they can stomach any sticker shock because it means they will be sharing in traditions with loved ones.

“It’s crazy,” Allison Norwood, a Columbia shopper, said of rising costs. “I’m just thankful that everyone in the family contributes something and not one person has to do all of it.”

University of South Carolina research economist Joey Von Nessen said turkey trouble is making things worse.

Due to a near-record outbreak of bird flu, turkey stock is down three percent nationwide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 49 million chickens and turkeys have died as a result of bird flu this year. For context, a record 50.5 million birds were affected by the outbreak in 2015.

To avoid shortages, some grocery stores are having to up prices for turkeys.

“When you see a mismatch between supply and demand, the way that’s generally resolved, the way we think about it in economics, is through price changes,” Von Nessen said. “So when you have low supply, you see an increase in price that adjusts for that low supply, that way you avoid shortages. So that’s why at the grocery store this year, you’ll be able to find a turkey, it’s just going to cost you more because there’s relatively high demand and relatively low supply.”

The average price of a 16-pound turkey is up more than 20 percent from last year, according to the survey. Consumers are paying on average $28.96 for the holiday hallmark, whereas last year they were paying $23.99.

A small bag of stuffing saw the biggest jump, up 69 percent from $2.29 to $3.88.

The price of a 12-ounce bag of cranberries is down 14 percent, however.

Emily Bushman, a Columbia shopper, said the last few years have felt like a “one-two punch.”

“So if we have the pandemic and then there’s shipping delays and then, ‘Oh no, the bird flu,’” she said. “One day I think it’s going to let up, but not today.”

With rising costs, Tonya Seabrooks said she is skipping the traditional Thanksgiving meal entirely.

“I asked my mom, I was like, ‘Would you be okay with us doing something different for Thanksgiving and she said, ‘What?’” she said. “I said, ‘Well I think we should do like a Mexican-themed dinner. So we’re doing tacos, nachos, dip, black beans, we’re going to do a Mexican street corn, and when I went grocery shopping for those items it was a lot more reasonable than $40 for a turkey. I probably spent $40 on everything.”

Von Nessen consumers should expect to be spending a little more on holiday shopping this year as well.

Inflation has begun to subside some since the summer, and he expects there will be more progress on that front in 2023.

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