Covering Louisiana

Nov 27, 2013 11:01 AM by AP

LSU AgCenter: La. Thanksgiving costs up 9 percent

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Thanksgiving dinner costs in Louisiana are up about 9 percent - from $44.35 for a dinner for 10 last year, to $48.50 this year, the LSU AgCenter says.

The biggest chunk of that increase is in the turkey. An AgCenter survey found that turkeys in Baton Rouge cost about $1.38 a pound, up 23 cents from a year ago. For 10 people, the survey looked at 16-pound turkeys.

However, holiday specials are likely to cut that cost, said AgCenter family economist Jeanette Tucker. The AgCenter checked prices from Nov. 4-5 at three stores in Baton Rouge, looking for the best prices without special promotional coupons or purchase deals, but research indicates that four out of five Thanksgiving turkeys are sold on a holiday special, she said.

"This suggests that many consumers will probably purchase Thanksgiving turkeys for less than the survey reports," Tucker said. They might want to buy a second and freeze it for future low-cost meals, she suggested.

The AgCenter's survey is based on an American Farm Bureau Federation shopping list. It includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a group of 10.

The biggest percentage change was in the $2.55 cost of a 12-ounce bag of brown-and-serve rolls. That's up 63 cents - nearly one-third - from last year.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data and forecasts, turkey production for 2013 is expected to be down roughly 2 percent from last year.

LSU AgCenter agricultural economist Kurt Guidry said factors like processing, transportation and other transaction costs of getting the product from the farm gate to the final retail product also can affect the retail prices.

While fuel prices averaged roughly 1 percent lower through the first three quarters of 2013, they still remain at historically high levels, Guidry said. Natural gas and electricity prices have moved higher in 2013, potentially adding to the costs of processing and transporting products from the farm to retail.

Even with the substantial price hike, turkey is still a bargain, offering tasty lean meat for about $1 a pound, Tucker said.

Prices also went up 16 cents for 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, to $2.55; 19 cents for 16 ounces of frozen green peas, to $1.69; and 28 cents (up 19 cents). And the cost of the low-effort pumpkin pie went up - 21 cents for a 30-ounce pumpkin pie mix, to $3.05; 10 cents for two 9-inch pie shells, to $2.02; and 28 cents for 8 ounces of whipping cream, to $1.90.

Only three items - milk, sweet potatoes and stuffing mix - cost less than last year. A gallon of whole milk is down eight cents, to $4.46; three pounds of sweet potatoes cost $2.76, down 10 cents from 2012; and 12 ounces cubed stuffing mix were down 30 cents, to $1.85.

Tucker said the Farm Bureau study didn't provide enough information to replicate the costs for a group of miscellaneous items such as coffee, celery, carrots, onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk, butter and other ingredients necessary to prepare the meal, so she used last year's national average of $3.18.

Food prices are generally higher this year than last.

The Farm Bureau Thanksgiving survey was first conducted in 1986. The average cost of a meal for 10 was $28.74 - or $61.40 in 2013 dollars, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

"On average, American consumers have enjoyed stable food costs over the years, particularly when you adjust for inflation," Tucker said. The AgCenter figures work out to less than $5 per person - less than a typical fast food meal.

Tucker said, "That's a real bargain in these challenging economic times."

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