Economic Gratitude on the Thanksgiving Table


Here's one for the family dinner conversation on Thursday, courtesy of economist Mark Perry and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

A family in America can celebrate Thanksgiving with a classic turkey feast for $49. 12 and at a “time cost” of 2.21 hours of work at the average hourly wage for one person. What does that mean? The average worker would earn enough money before lunch on just one day to be able to afford the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal - for 10 people!

American Farm Bureau Federation’s 32nd annual price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.12, a 75-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.87. The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at a total of $22.38 this year. That’s roughly $1.40 per pound, a decrease of 2 cents per pound, or a total of 36 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2016. ...

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers. Consumers continue to see lower retail turkey prices due to continued large inventory in cold storage, which is up almost double digits from last year, Newton explained.

The shopping list has remained unchanged since 1986, the first year AFBF started tracking the financial cost of the Thanksgiving meal. Adjusted for inflation, the cost of a classic Thanksgiving dinner this year is 3.0% less expensive than last year, and the lowest since 2010.

Compared to the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner in 1986 of $63.87 (in 2017 dollars), today’s classic turkey dinner is 23.1% cheaper.

Perry notes the "time cost" of earnings needed to pay for the meal has dropped from 2.29 hours, or 3.5%, since last year, and is at its lowest level since 1986. In 1986, the average American worker would have to work 3.21 hours to earn the income necessary to purchase the turkey dinner for 10, the “time cost” for a worker today is 31.2% lower than 31 years ago.

The average hourly wage for all private production workers in October 2017 was $22.22.

So Happy Thanksgiving. Eat up. You earned it.