What’s driving up turkey prices?

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, November 22, 2023

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According to an informal survey conducted by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the average cost to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 10 is $91.30, or $9.13 per person. 

The survey’s menu consists of turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, rolls, carrots, celery, cranberries, green beans, peas, milk and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. 

A meal without ham, russet potatoes and green beans costs $66.88, or $6.68 per person. 

This year’s statewide average increased by $17.39—a 24% increase—from the 2022 average of $73.91 for a 10-person meal. 

Prices reported by volunteer shoppers were collected between Oct. 25 and Nov. 6—before major retailers began offering holiday discounts, promotional sales or coupons. 

This year, the average per-pound price for a whole frozen turkey during the data collection was $2.18. But on Nov. 8, when one major supermarket chain ran its weekly sale ad, consumers could buy a whole frozen turkey for 39 cents per pound. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nov. 10 retail report indicated that the Southeast region’s average price for an 8- to 16-pound whole frozen turkey was $.87 per pound, down from $1.43 per pound in the Nov. 3 report. The Nov. 10 report also said 66.9% of Southeast stores were running sales promotions, versus just 13.8% in the Nov. 3 report. 


“Although turkeys are plentiful in Virginia and across the country this year, with the state’s production up 5.5% from a year ago to 15.4 million birds, there has been a trend of retailers waiting to run promotional prices and sales closer to the holidays,” noted Elijah Griles, VFBF commodity specialist. “This is consistent with this year’s Thanksgiving dinner survey findings.” 

This is the 20th year Virginia Farm Bureau has conducted the survey, which is based on an annual survey organized by American Farm Bureau Federation. Volunteer shoppers checked prices online and in person at 45 grocery stores throughout the state. 

The VFBF survey showed the average cost of a 16-pound turkey was $34.86, or $2.18 per pound. This represents a 24% increase in price versus the 2022 average of $1.76 per pound. 

The Farm Bureau survey discovered the average price for a 4-pound boneless ham was $18.45, while last year the average price for a 4-pound bone-in ham was $10.24. 

“There’s a significant price difference between boneless and bone-in ham, which could easily explain the large increase this year,” Griles explained. 

Consumers pay more for boneless hams because it costs more to produce them due to the processing involved, like deboning and packaging. 

As for the other ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, the survey showed that a gallon of whole milk was $3.47; frozen peas, $1.77; frozen green beans, $1.84; three pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.06; a 5-pound bag of russet potatoes, $4.13; fresh celery, $1.91; fresh carrots, $1.17; two pie shells, $3.43; whipping cream, $3.47; canned pumpkin pie filling, $4.21; fresh cranberries, $2.43; stuffing mix, $3.30; and a dozen dinner rolls, $3.80. 

Most items increased in price versus 2022 values except for sweet potatoes, russet potatoes and whole milk, which were all less than last year. 


The locality with the highest average cost for a traditional Thanksgiving meal was Powhatan County at $124.84. The locality with the lowest average cost was the city of Richmond at $57.93 for a 10-person meal. 

Inflation continues to affect families across the country, including the nation’s farmers. 

“Although there is a great deal of volatility and unpredictability in both production costs and marketing of agricultural products, farmers are efficient and effective at what they do and they persevere to provide food for our tables in Virginia, across the nation and around the world,” noted VFBF president Wayne F. Pryor. 

Consumers do have some options for lowering their Thanksgiving meal costs, Griles said. They can compare store prices, look for special promotions and buy store brands rather than name brands. 

Nationally, American Farm Bureau Federation’s survey found the average cost of its classic Thanksgiving meal for 10 was $61.17, a 4.5% decrease from $64.05 in 2022. The basic AFBF survey does not include ham, russet potatoes and green beans. With these items included in the AFBF findings, the national average cost for a traditional meal was $84.75, 8% lower than the cost in Virginia. 

Veronica Nigh, senior economist for AFBF, noted that turkey prices nationally were down 5.6% because of the reduction in avian influenza cases.