Talkin' Turkey: Cost for Thanksgiving dinner sees sharp decline this year

PHOENIX -- It may not make up for having to hear Uncle Harold's war stories for the umpteenth time.

But it's going be cheaper -- a lot cheaper -- to feed the family this Thanksgiving.

New figures from the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation show the cost of feeding a family of 10 this year will be just $40.47. That is not only a sharp drop of last year's $52.81 figure to buy the same items but actually a return to 2006 prices.

One big reason is the centerpiece: A 16-pound turkey is retailing for less than a dollar a pound. Last year Farm Bureau shoppers found the same bird running close to $1.50 a pound.

The problem for farmers -- and the benefit for shoppers -- is a simple question of supply and demand: There are far more turkeys available for sale this year.

"Last year was an especially bad year,' said Peggy Jo Goodfellow, the Farm Bureau's marketing manager. On top of that, she said, the costs of feed also were running high.

The other big change is that dairy prices are the lowest they've been in years, with gallons of milk retailing for less than $2. Here, too, Goodfellow said, it is a question of supply and demand.

"There was a flooding of the market overseas,' she said, with foreign farmers producing more than anticipated. The result is that U.S. farmers lost many of those accounts but still had their herds producing as much as before.

"Now, here in the states, we're just overwhelmed with milk,' Goodfellow said.

Consumers actually could end up feeding their families for even less than the Farm Bureau estimates.

The organization's volunteers go out each year a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving and record the prices being charged.

But many supermarkets offer one or more brands of turkeys as "loss leaders' in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, selling them for below costs in hopes of pulling shoppers into the store to buy everything else. And chain stores also offer special deals to those who hold their "affinity' cards.

For example, the Fry's chain is offering one line of birds at just 43 cents a pound. Safeway had birds at 39 cents a pound for those who buy $25 worth of items.

The cost of most other items also is dropping, with the Farm Bureau showing only a 12-ounce bag of cranberries being more expensive this year than last.

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