We hate to rain on your Thanksgiving Day parade, but turkeys aren't a lot cheaper than last year. In fact, by some measures, they're more expensive.
It's true that wholesale frozen and fresh turkeys got cheaper in recent weeks, and that they're cheaper than they were at the same time last year, but unfortunately that doesn't mean much for people picking up a bird at their local grocery store. That's because the companies distributing all those turkeys signed contracts setting the prices months ago, said Michael Sheats, director of the agricultural analytics division covering poultry for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It's far too late for wholesale prices to move retail prices this year.
"There is nobody out there at the packer saying, 'Joe Blow wants another turkey so let's process it and ship it out,'" said Sheats. "You always see the wholesale market rise in advance of Thanksgiving and you always see it fall just before Thanksgiving — that won't tell you what consumers were paying."
Sheats said that the data he's collected at stores across the country indicate that prices are about the same as last year. Another USDA series tracking the retail price of frozen turkeys also shows little evidence of cheaper turkeys this year. At the end of last week, retail prices for a conventional hen (not organic or specialty) were at 99 cents a pound nationally. At the same time last year, that figure was 95 cents, and the year before it was 97 cents. That's not a cheaper turkey.