Consumers heading to grocery stores this Thanksgiving will find many reasons to give thanks. Jayson Lusk, distinguished professor and department head of Purdue’s Department of Agricultural Economics, said estimated turkey prices will ring in at a 10-year low around $1.45 per pound. The price of Thanksgiving staples will be on par with, if not lower than, the past several years.
“Agricultural commodity prices, like for corn and soybeans, have been low for some time and have remained low,” Lusk said. “These are the ingredients for a lot of food and are also used to make feed for animals, so that’s one of the drivers.”
Low energy costs over the past few years also add to the affordability of food. Good news for the consumer, however, spells bad news for many farmers. Lusk describes the national agricultural economy as fairly depressed, especially compared with five years ago. Certain sectors, like pork, beef and poultry, benefit from low feed prices and continue to prosper whereas other industries, like dairy, are feeling the strain of an oversaturated market and low prices. Lusk doesn’t see this trend reversing anytime soon.
“Overall, if you look at total revenues in the farm sector, they are expected to decline,” he said.
Food inflation remains low, Lusk continued, so consumers will discover savings on many Thanksgiving favorites:
• Cranberries are 30% cheaper than five years ago at about 50 cents a pound.
• The price of sugar is comparable to last year at 63 cents per pound.
• Potatoes are about 60 cents per pound.
• While flour is comparable to last year at about 50 cents per pound.
Low food prices can have a ripple effect on other areas of the economy, especially around the holidays when consumer spending spikes. Lusk said it is likely savings accrued during Thanksgiving will be used to supplement holiday or Black Friday shopping.
Alternatively, many people might choose to upgrade their Thanksgiving spread, switching to organic meats and vegetables, more niche food or higher-quality ingredients. Additionally, low food prices around Thanksgiving translate into affordable food near Christmas and other winter holidays. So, whether consumers are eyeing a juicy roast for their Christmas meal or a giant tofu turkey, they can expect to continue saving.