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Thanksgiving feast costs consumers more

6:42 AM, Nov 19, 2012   |    comments
Chris Williams was shopping for a Thanksgiving turkey at Mac’s Fresh Market in Monroe Friday. / Greg Hilburn/The News-Star
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SHREVEPORT, La. -- Chris Williams dug through bins of frozen turkeys at Mac's Fresh Market Friday searching for the perfect bird.

"I'm a turkey lover, so Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays," said Williams, 40, who chose two 12-pound turkeys. "I'll probably bake one with my own special seasonings injected into it.

"I'd like to deep fry the other one, but peanut oil is so expensive. I might bake them both."

Williams and other consumers shopping for their Thanksgiving feasts are likely to find many items that are more expensive than last year.

In fact, a traditional meal for 10 people will cost an average of $44.35, up 13.2 percent from 2011, the largest single-year increase since the LSU AgCenter began its market basket survey. Last year the total cost was $39.19.

Consumers can blame the bulk of the increase on the birds.

The cost of a 16-pound turkey at $18.45, or $1.15 per pound, reflects an increase of 29 cents per pound or a total increase of $4.58 per whole turkey.

"This is the largest contributor to the overall increase in the cost of the 2012 Thanksgiving dinner," LSU AgCenter family economist Jeanette Tucker said.

LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry said the increased price of grain, which is used to feed turkeys, has caused an increase in production costs for raising all livestock.

"It may be getting reflected in higher animal prices," Guidry said.

Other items included in the market basket survey were stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a group of 10.

"Anything that has corn or grain as part of the product or that's used to feed livestock has gone up," said Reggy McDaniel, who owns 15 Mac's Fresh Market stores in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

But higher prices aren't likely to affect consumers' Thanksgiving menus.

Donnie Byars, Brookshire Grocery Co.'s regional vice president, said the stores in northeastern Louisiana will sell 2,500 turkeys or more for Thanksgiving.

"It's one of the most exciting weeks of the year for grocers because this is a holiday that's all about the food," Byars said. "Business began to pick up Friday and will build all the way through Wednesday, which will be one of the biggest days of the year."

And even though the average price of a regularly priced turkey is $1.15, most grocers are offering in-store specials on the birds this week for significantly less.

In fact, the LSU AgCenter said four out of five Thanksgiving turkeys are sold on a holiday special.

Mac's, for example, advertised turkeys for 77 cents per pound with an additional $25 purchase, while Byars said Brookshire's is offering a bundle of free Thanksgiving market basket items for customers who buy a turkey.

"If consumers shop smart, I believe they will find that they may even save money over last year," Byars said.

Williams agreed.

"You definitely have to shop around," he said.

Market basket survey:

Turkey: $1.15 per pound (up 29 cents per pound)
On gallon whole milk: $4.54 (up 11 cents)
30-ounce pumpkin pie mix: $2.84 (up 15 cents)
Three pounds of sweet potatoes: $2.86 (up 20 cents)
Stuffing mix: $2.15 (up 79 cents)
12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries: $2.39 (down 11 cents)
12-ounce brown and serve rolls: $2.22 (down 13 cents)
16-ounce frozen green peas: $1.50 (down 32 cents)
8 ounces of whipping cream: $1.62 (down 15 cents)
Two 9-inch pie shells: $1.92 (down 37 cents)
Miscellaneous items: $3.86 (flat)

Greg Hilburn, Shreveport Times

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