- This year's Thanksgiving dinner will only cost a penny more than last year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual survey. The group said the average price of serving 10 people a traditional meal comes to $48.91, or less than $5 per person, compared to an average of $48.90 last year.
- Turkey prices have been dropping for years and just hit a nine-year low, the group said. A 16-pound turkey is about $20.80, or $1.30 per pound, which is 4% less than 2018, the survey found. But when it comes to ham, Bloomberg reported wholesale prices have hit a five-year high as U.S. exports rise to meet overseas demand resulting from the impact of African swine fever.
- An opinion poll conducted by the farm group found that 90% of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with a special meal and turkey remains a staple for 95% of consumers, while half serve both turkey and ham at the holiday.
Despite the price variances between turkey and ham, Thanksgiving costs remain fairly even as a vast majority of Americans stick to the poultry staple. About 46 million turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving, although people also typically consume 24.75 million pounds of bone-in ham, according to The Washington Post.
Turkey prices are down because genetic and housing innovations help get birds to market weight in less time and with less feed, MarketWatch reported. After adjusting for inflation, turkeys now cost less than half the price per pound they did in the 1970s.
Much of the cost fluctuations for ham can be attributed to trade and disease. Rising tariffs and African swine fever, which has decimated half of China's pig population, have impacted the supply and increased the prices, which could soon change given the current trade landscape.
U.S. global pork exports are expected to grow by 12% this year and 14% next year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. They could expand even more if China lifts retaliatory tariffs on U.S. pork. The Asian country recently resumed importing chicken and turkey from the U.S. after a four-year ban, and it's possible it will remove pork tariffs since the product is popular with the Chinese.
While that development would clearly benefit U.S. pork producers, it might also mean continuing high prices for the meat here. Arnold Silver, director of raw materials for Smithfield Foods, recently said that ramping up pork production and exports could limit supplies of ham, pork bellies and related products for U.S. consumers next year.
What will be key to these anticipated U.S. sales increases is keeping African swine fever out of the country. So far, the disease has not been detected in America, according to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Tyson Foods CEO Noel White told analysts in May that he expected the African swine fever situation to benefit his company and potentially change global protein production and consumption patterns. Top executives of JBS have expressed similar sentiments.