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You can cry foul, but Thanksgiving dinner costs soar

The American Farm Bureau Federation says a classic holiday feast for 10 people — including turkey, sweet potatoes, rolls and stuffing — will run $49.20 this year, up from $43.47 in 2010.

November 11, 2011|By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times
  • A 16-pound turkey will cost $21.57, or 22% more than in 2010. Still, the meal remains a bargain at less than $5 a person, the American Farm Bureau Federation said.
A 16-pound turkey will cost $21.57, or 22% more than in 2010. Still, the meal… (Kirk McKoy, Los Angeles…)

It's hard to feel grateful when Thanksgiving dinner costs 13% more than it did last year.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, which puts out an annual cost report on the nation's most famed meal, said that a classic holiday feast for 10 people — including turkey, sweet potatoes, rolls and stuffing — will run $49.20 this year, up from $43.47 in 2010.

It's the biggest jump in Thanksgiving meal prices, percentage-wise, since 1990.

Breaking down the costs, the federation said a 30-ounce package of pumpkin pie mix will be 16% more than last year, a pound of frozen green peas will be up 17% and a gallon of whole milk will be 13% higher.

But it's turkey prices that have really taken wing. A 16-pound bird will cost $21.57, or 22% more than in 2010. Still, the meal "remains a bargain" at less than $5 a person, the federation said.

"Although we'll pay a bit more this year, on a per-person basis, our traditional Thanksgiving feast remains a better value than most fast-food value meals," said John Anderson, senior economist with the group. "Plus it's a wholesome, home-cooked meal."

The report, which took into consideration prices across the nation, is the federation's 26th since 1986, when a Thanksgiving meal cost $28.74.

The price jump reflects a continuation of food inflation over the last few months, during which the supply chain has been plagued by bad weather and rising fuel prices.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said food prices will jump as much as 4.5% this year.

Culver City resident Nicole Antoinette Ross, 26, is trying to deal with higher food costs by avoiding major supermarkets and instead patronizing stores such as Trader Joe's and farmers markets, where produce prices are often lower. This year for the holiday, Ross said she would consider serving cheaper wines, and she aims to shop carefully so as not to be left with a stockpile of leftover ingredients.

Still, she plans on making the traditional dinner.

"Thanksgiving's my biggest day of the year," said Ross, who owns a Web design company. "It would have to be a pretty crazy increase for me to make many changes. But I'm more careful and intentional about my choices."

Steeper prices for the holiday aren't only in grocery stores. Bruce Grindy, an economist with the National Restaurant Assn., said in a recent blog post that wholesale food prices for eateries were on track to make their biggest year-over-year gain this year since 1980.

But restaurant owners have to walk a fine line between maintaining a profit and not alienating customers.

"Restaurant operators have learned from past recessions that they can't easily pass on a price increase in this kind of market when they've had enough challenges just getting people into the restaurants," NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs said.

"But food costs have gotten so high that they have no choice," Riggs said. They'll just have to be careful about how they do it."

A Thanksgiving champagne brunch at The Reef in Long Beach will cost $39.95 this year, up $2. At Little Dom's in Los Feliz, the a la carte, deep-fried 12-pound turkey for six to eight patrons will be $75, up from $68 last year.

Angeli Caffe in Los Angeles is serving up a Thanksgiving feast with turkey, stuffing, salad, vegetables, potatoes and pies for $45

per person. Last year it was $40.

"We're paying more now for everything we need to put on a great dinner," said Misty Swift, an assistant to chef Evan Kleiman.

"But we know everyone's going through a hard time right now, so the last thing we try to do is pass it on to our guests."

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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