High inflation eats into Americans' Thanksgiving dinner plans

Price of turkeys has soared in 2022

Members of the public eat Thanksgiving dinner last year at the Central Union Mission in Washington. EPA
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Inflation, supply chain issues and the spread of bird flu have left many Americans searching for Thanksgiving alternatives to the classic turkey dinner.

Outside of the Giant supermarket in the Shaw neighbourhood of Washington, frustrated shoppers were forced to dig deep into their pockets to pay for Thanksgiving groceries.

“It’s really getting outrageous,” said Arthea Reynolds, 68.

Ms Reynolds said she will still be having turkey this year but knows many who will not be so fortunate.

“People are really struggling to put food on the table this year and some people are not going to be able to have the traditional Thanksgiving dinner like turkey and ham, and some people are using chicken or something that's more reasonable,” Ms Reynolds told The National.

Turkey has long been the traditional centrepiece of Americans’ Thanksgiving Day meals. Every year, Americans consume 46 million of the large birds over the holiday, says the National Turkey Federation, which lobbies on behalf of the turkey industry.

This year, the price of turkey has increased by more than 21 per cent, with the cost of a 7kg bird coming in at $28.96 — an increase of $4 per kilogram, thanks to high inflation and the spread of avian flu in bird populations across the US, the American Farm Bureau Federation, which has been tracking the price of Thanksgiving meals for the past 37 years, said.

“The higher retail turkey cost at the grocery store can also be attributed to a slightly smaller flock this year, increased feed costs and lighter processing weights,” said Roger Cryan, chief economist at the Farm Bureau.

It is not only shoppers who have been affected by the high cost of turkeys: food pantries across the country have struggled to source and pay for Thanksgiving meals for those in need.

At the Share Food Programme in Philadelphia, which serves hundreds of thousands of people in the country’s sixth-largest city, organisers had to order their turkeys over the summer to ensure they had enough for the holiday.

“We still had some supply chain issues with many of them,” explained George Matysik, executive director of Share Food Programme.

The organisation has seen an 80 per cent rise in people requiring their services this year.

“What we're seeing is a huge increase in the cost of food and with that, the cost of everything for the folks that we serve goes up, including buying food, but that also means that the costs go up for us as well,” Mr Matysik told The National.

Similar needs are being seen and felt in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, which is one of the largest food relief agencies in the country, is serving about 800,000 people per month.

At the peak of the pandemic, the food bank was helping to feed one million people per month, a huge increase from their pre-pandemic number of 300,000 people.

Since then, the need has not gone down, explained David May, director of communications at the food bank.

“What we're seeing now is with inflation, people who do have jobs are still struggling to make ends meet because everything's so expensive,” Mr May told The National.

Inflation has soared under President Joe Biden, peaking over the summer at 9.1 per cent and falling only slightly to 7.7 per cent in October.

Updated: November 23, 2022, 2:50 AM