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Turkey Inflation is Real

November 22, 2023

Isabel Soto, Policy Director – The turkey has long been a staple of the Thanksgiving holiday. Being such a “respectable bird”, the turkey was even in the running for the U.S. National bird, but lost to the bald eagle much to the chagrin of Benjamin Franklin.  Entering popular literature in early New England the turkey gained even greater prominence when President Lincoln made thanksgiving an official national holiday in 1863.

Overtime the Thanksgiving turkey has been enjoyed by families all over the country and last year it had yet another historic moment – the highest prices on record. This Thanksgiving we can be thankful that we aren’t seeing record high inflation as we gather around the table. Last year’s Thanksgiving reflected high economic instability, wages weren’t keeping up inflation, and Americans saw the price of their feast’s center piece skyrocket. The price of a Thanksgiving turkey this year has dropped…depending on who you ask.

The American Farm Bureau Federation found that the price of turkey this year has fallen by 5.6 percent, that decline could be (depending on what you’re putting on you plate) enough to make this year’s meal slightly cheaper than last year! This could be promising. 

That said, the latest inflation data from the Bureau of data statistics tells a different story, that the price of uncooked poultry has actually gone up 7.2 percent over the last year. Turkey inflation is real if we look at the latest consumer price index data! 

What do we make of this conflicting information? First let’s note that the BLS has far more limited “turkey data” than the Farm bureau, who puts out a report annually about how hard pockets will be hit on thanksgiving. That’s not discounting the BLS results but could explain the difference between that data and the Farm Bureau Survey. It’s important to keep in mind these CPI numbers are not seasonally adjusted and they included non-turkey poultry as well. The American Farm Bureau also has the benefit of industry proximity. Regardless, we can all agree we certainly aren’t on solid ground yet.

Overall food at home inflation is up 2.1 compared to last October and the American Farm Bureau Federation report also found that despite their estimated drop this year, Thanksgiving prices are still 25 percent higher than they were in 2019, so let’s not count our turkeys before they hatch. Whether you’re a CPI chick or a Farm Bureau bro, prices are still elevated.