Thanksgiving 2021 could be the most expensive meal in the history of the holiday.
Caroline Hoffman is already hiding canned pumpkin in the kitchen of her Chicago apartment when she finds it for less than a dollar. She recently spent almost $ 2 more on the vanilla she will need to make pumpkin bread and other desserts for the various Friendsgiving celebrations she has been invited to.
Matthew McClure paid 20% more this month than last year for the 25 pasture-raised turkeys he plans to roast at the Hive Restaurant, Bentonville, Arkansas, of which he is the executive chef. And Norman Brown, sweet potato sales manager for Wada Farms in Raleigh, NC, pays truckers almost twice as much as usual to haul the crop to other parts of the country.
“I’ve never seen anything like it and have been practicing sweet potatoes for 38 or 39 years,” Brown said. “I don’t know what the answer is, but in the end, everything will be passed on to the consumer. “
Almost every component of the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, from the disposable aluminum turkey roaster to coffee and pie, will cost more this year, according to farm economists, farmers and grocery store executives. Big food companies like Nestlé and Procter & Gamble have already warned consumers to prepare for further price increases.
Granted, last year the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people was the lowest since 2010, according to the American Farm Bureau, whose annual Big Diner survey will be released on Nov. 18. But because of the pandemic, fewer people have bought for large gatherings, and turkey prices have been kept low to attract buyers. This year, turkey prices are expected to hit record highs and the cost of many foods has risen sharply.
There is no single culprit. The country’s food supply has been challenged by a knotted supply chain, high transport costs, labor shortages, trade policies and bad weather. Inflation is also at play. In September, the consumer price index for food was up 4.6% from a year ago. Prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs climbed 10.5%.
Weeks before the holiday feast, home cooks started shopping, hoping to stay ahead of shortages and fluctuating prices. “I imagine a perfect storm of increased demand and lack of supply,” said Matt Lardie, a food writer in Durham, North Carolina, who has already laid out his Thanksgiving game plan and expects to have some components in the freezer by next week.
For many cooks, the biggest expense will be the turkey. By the end of the year, according to market analysts, prices per pound will likely exceed the Department of Agriculture’s record benchmark price for turkeys – $ 1.36, set in 2015.
Turkey is more expensive largely because the price of corn, which most commercial turkeys eat, more than doubled in parts of the country from July 2020 to July 2021. Whole birds frozen between 8 and 16 pounds cost already 25 cents a pound more than they did a year ago, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Weekly Turkey Report released Friday.
Price hikes hit in a year when COVID-19 vaccines and relaxed health guidelines indicate more and larger holiday celebrations than in 2020. There will be fewer turkeys in the market, but demand should be higher, especially for small birds and for turkeys raised and processed with more care.
Kroger executives are further anticipating what marketers call the ‘premiumization’ of Thanksgiving ingredients, with many cooks buying fresh, organic, free-range, or processed turkeys to raise them beyond a bird. inexpensive frozen.
“Customers don’t necessarily go to restaurants, so they’re upping their game in terms of products,” said Stuart Aitken, the company’s chief merchant.
Still, many households will seek out cheap turkeys and try to stretch their food budget.
“I can believe it will be the most expensive Thanksgiving ever, but there is a story of income inequality here that matters a lot,” said Trey Malone, agricultural economist at Michigan State University. “The rich are going to spend more on Thanksgiving than they’ve ever spent before, but not everyone will be able to.”
Packaged buns will be more expensive because the cost of almost all of the ingredients used by commercial bakers has gone up. Canned cranberry sauce will cost more as national steel mills have yet to catch up after pandemic shutdowns, and China is limiting steel production to cut carbon emissions. As a result, steel prices have remained over 200% higher than they were before the pandemic.
The higher price of this turkey-friendly California pinot noir reflects a 25% increase in energy costs, costly delays from labor shortages, and the cost of glass bottles stuck on cargo ships from China . The average end-to-end shipping time from China to the United States was 73 days in September, down from 40 days two years earlier, said Katheryn Russ, professor of economics at the University of California at Davis. And shipping costs, she said, have tripled.
“Not all of these dynamics are theoretical,” Russ said. “We cannot lose sight of how these larger issues affect the home. “
The extreme weather conditions also made Thanksgiving ingredients cost more. A late spring drought in the Midwest damaged the sugar beet crop, which was previously affected by frost in 2019. Hurricane Ida shut down sugar cane refineries in the South. California’s grape, nut and citrus crops have suffered from this year’s drought. Brazil, which supplies the world with more coffee than any other country, suffered a severe drought and then a surprise freeze in July, which resulted in less coffee and higher prices.
Even the basic materials – like wooden pallets and cardboard containers – that farmers need to get their crops from the field to distributors are either hard to find or much more expensive.
“Whatever you order, you either can’t get it, or you shake your head and say, ‘How much? “Said Jim Kent, owner of the 100-acre Locust Grove Fruit Farm in Milton, New York.
Although grocery store executives predict one-time shortages on some items, economists like Russ say there is no indication that the panic buying that was a hallmark of pandemic shopping in 2020 is resurfacing.
That’s not reassuring for some home cooks, who fear they won’t be able to find smaller turkeys, canned pumpkins, or the particular type of stuffing mix they like.
Hoffman, a Chicago resident who works in public relations and food blogs, recently struggled to find cream of tartar and mini marshmallows. “Even finding pumpkin boxes has been honestly difficult,” she said, “as I see them I grab a few.”
As food prices continue to climb, she has to increase her budget and look for good deals. It’s not always easy when the holidays call for specific ingredients.
“I dread buying vanilla,” she said.