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Thanksgiving dinner will be less expensive this year. You can thank turkeys (and cooling inflation)

By Vanessa Yurkevich, CNN

New York (CNN) — Going for seconds this Thanksgiving won’t be so painful – for your wallet.

A Thanksgiving meal of twelve classic items for 10 people will cost $61.17 on average – a 4.5% drop from last year’s record high average of $64.05, according to a new survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) on Wednesday.

While this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is more affordable compared to last year, it is still up 25% from 2019, underscoring price increases since the pandemic.

Tuesday’s Consumer Price Index report showed prices for food rose by 0.3% in October from the previous month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Food prices were up 3.3% from the same month a year ago.

But you can thank turkeys for the lower meal cost this Thanksgiving. The dinner’s centerpiece and most expensive item – a 16-pound turkey – costs $27.35 on average, down 5.6% from last year. And the AFBF says prices of turkeys are expected to drop further.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) told CNN that with Thanksgiving now one week away, promotions for turkeys have reached their peak and that prices will be further reduced due to these discounts. The USDA says controlling the spread of avian bird flu also helped lower prices.

An annual report by Wells Fargo found the industry added 2% to 3% more birds into barns to boost the Thanksgiving supply. A drop in input costs also helped, like the cost of refrigerated trucks to move supply around the country, according to Michael Swanson, chief agriculture economist with Wells Fargo Agri-Food Institute.

“Traditionally, the turkey is the most expensive item on the Thanksgiving dinner table,” Veronica Nigh, senior economist at the AFBF, said in a statement. “Turkey prices have fallen thanks to a sharp reduction in cases of avian influenza, which have allowed production to increase in time for the holiday.”

Whipped cream, cranberries and pie crusts also saw drops from last year, with a half pint of whipping cream costing $1.73 on average, a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries coming it at $2.10 and two frozen pie crusts retailing on average for $3.50.

Just a few items in the Thanksgiving meal rose in cost this year, including dinner rolls, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie mix, carrots and celery, the AFBF said.

“While shoppers will see a slight improvement in the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner, high inflation continues to hammer families across the country, including the nation’s farmers,” Zippy Duvall, president of the AFBF, said in a statement.

But Midwesterners will have access to the most affordable meal items, totaling $58.66 this year. The Northeast has the most expensive meal price at $64.38 for the 12-item basket.

The national average for the Thanksgiving meal was calculated by checking prices in all 50 states and Puerto Rico from November 1 to 6.

AFBF volunteer shoppers, who checked prices in person and online at grocery stores, looked for the best possible prices without promotions or deals. The bureau has conducted the annual survey using the same menu since 1986.

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