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Turkey Prices Gobble Up More of Thanksgiving Budget

Turkey Prices Gobble Up More of Thanksgiving Budget
Image Source|Getty Images

Blame the bird.

The cost of a classic Thanksgiving dinner edged up slightly, but it could have been lower this year had it not been for the meal's traditional centerpiece, the turkey.

The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates it will cost $49.48 to feed 10 people turkey and all the fixings this year, up only 28 cents from last year's average of $49.20. But much of the 3-percent increase came from the big-ticket item on the table, the turkey.

A 16-pound turkey will cost about $22.23 this year, the AFBF said. That is roughly $1.39 a pound, an increase of about 4 cents per pound, or 66 cents for the turkey.

"Most Americans will pay about the same as last year at the grocery store for a turkey and all the trimmings," said John Anderson, AFBF's deputy chief economist. "A slight increase in demand for turkey is responsible for the moderate price increase our shoppers reported for the bird."

Turkey farmers also saw higher costs for grain due to this summer's drought.

Luckily, many shoppers may not even feel the pinch from these higher prices as stores often price their turkeys competitively to drive traffic into their stores, or they use free or discounted turkeys as a customer promotion.

"Anyone with the patience to wait until the last minute to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving could be rewarded with an exceptional bargain," Anderson said.

Still, the cost of this year's meal will be the highest in the survey's history on an absolute basis. However, if you look back to 1986, when the AFBF estimated a Thanksgiving dinner would cost $28.74 and adjusted it for inflation, this year's meal is a relative bargain. The inflation-adjusted price for the 1986 dinner is equal to $60 today.

The AFBF sent out 155 volunteer shoppers who checked prices at grocery stores in 35 states. To see how the cost of each item breaks down, and how it compares with last year, click here.


-By Christina Cheddar Berk, CNBC.com News Editor; Follow her @ccheddarberk.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Christina Cheddar Berk on Twitter

  • Christina Cheddar Berk is editor of CNBC.com's Consumer Nation and chief trend spotter.

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  • Stephanie Landsman is one of the producers of "Fast Money."

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