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Food inflation has spared Thanksgiving dinner, thanks to the trade war

Chelsea Lombardo
Production Assistant

The cost of a typical Thanksgiving dinner will cost justa penny more than it did last year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

A new survey from the AFBF has found that the average price of a Thanksgiving dinner for ten people — which includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, pumpkin pie with whipped cream — is $48.91. That’s only a penny above last year’s price.

AFBF’s chief economist John Newton told YFi PM that despite an on-going trade war between the U.S. and China and rising food prices overall, the price of Thanksgiving dinner has remained mostly flat.

“When you look at the trade war and the impact of many of our farm products, it's actually reduced demand,” Newton stated. “When you think about soybeans, the Chinese are buying less soybeans today than they did two years ago. And that's actually led to weaker farm prices across much of agriculture.”

That view is consistent with economists who fear a prolonged standoff will erode global demand, and might even provoke a recession.

Turkeys are seen at a store in Mountain View, California, United States on Tuesday, November 19, 2019. (Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“It's no surprise that the Thanksgiving dinner remains flat. And then it's also important to note, many of the commodities that are caught up in the trade war are not which you're commonly going to find on your Thanksgiving dinner table,” Newton said.

After three years of decline since 2015, the average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner are essentially unchanged from last year, but AFBF cites that retail turkey prices are at their lowest since 2010.

A 16 pound bird comes in at $20.80 — which is a 4% drop from last year.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently stated that grocery and supermarket staples would likely stay weak this year.

“Several products could continue to see lower prices, including poultry, eggs, fats and oils, and fresh fruits,” the agency said, with other foods expected to see historically low price gains.

“When you look at the inventory data from USDA on turkey supplies, supplies are relatively tight across the country, Newton told Yahoo Finance.

“So one would think that turkey prices would actually be going up. But what we're actually finding is many retailers, in order to drive consumers to the stores, they often price that turkey at very competitive levels, trying to get consumers in the store so that they can get all the different fixings on that Thanksgiving dinner,” he added.

AFBF also found in their survey that most Americans are surprised to learn that famers’ shares of the food dollar is so small, stating that only eight cents of every dollar consumer spends on food goes to the farmers. In fact, that sector has been the hardest hit by the ongoing battle between the world’s two-largest economies.

“Less than 8% of the dollars that consumers spend on food actually make it back to the farmer. And that's for a variety of reasons, Newton stated.

“There are obviously transportation processing costs associated with taking those farm products from farmers and ranchers across the country, and getting it on the store shelves for consumers,” he said. “So we're not surprised. It is trending in the wrong direction. We'd love to see farmers getting a little bit more of that food dollar.”

Chelsea Lombardo is a production assistant for Yahoo Finance. You can find more of her work here.

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