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Why Thanksgiving Could Cost More This Year

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Stretch out your legs and fan out your elbows because you might have more room at the dinner table come Thanksgiving. Many Americans will be scaling down celebrations this year, or even opting to carve the turkey via video chat. On top of a whittled down guest list, the food on the menu (and what you pay for it at the store) could be different, too.

Gatherings could be different this holiday season. Health experts are recommending that families celebrate wintertime holidays only with their immediate households – or even host a virtual Thanksgiving. And those different-looking celebrations could have a broader impact on the food industry. 

The fourth quarter typically sees elevated demand for certain food items which “could be disrupted by potential shifts in larger holiday-related gatherings given reduced consumer mobility and concerns around Covid,” Goldman Research analysts note.

Food prices are higher this year. You may have noticed that each grocery store trip (or delivery) is costing a bit more than you expected. Prices for the food we eat at home have gone up 3.4% this year, compared with 2019, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture. That’s a bigger jump than dining out costs have seen (up 2.8%, by comparison). 

The per-pound price of a frozen turkey is about 16% higher than it was in 2019.

Like so much else, the Covid-19 pandemic may explain those higher food prices at some grocery stores because there’s been a surge in demand for certain foods, on top of supply chain disruptions. While the prices of some items spiked in the spring and have come down since (hello, a dozen eggs), that’s not the case for everything in your grocery basket. 

More money to get gobbling. Americans eat on average about 16 pounds of turkey each year – and some of us may feel like we eat that much at Thanksgiving dinner alone. All of that turkey adds up, not only on your plate but also in your wallet. As of early November, the per-pound cost of a whole frozen turkey was about 16% higher than the same time last year, according to the USDA. 

To turkey or not to turkey? While food prices could change dinner plans for some families, the size of the gathering might push turkey off the menu completely. Amid speculation of smaller gatherings, turkey farmers worry they’ll be stuck with “too many big turkeys and not enough small ones,” The Washington Post notes.

Americans who opt to go turkey-less this year could save money by cooking other meats.

Some retailers are preparing for the possibility that Americans may skip turkey altogether, Bloomberg News reports. As a result, they’re offering a greater variety of food to accommodate people who are cash-strapped or don’t want to prepare a full Thanksgiving meal without the help of relatives. 

Got beef? People who opt to go turkey-less this year may be left with some extra money. In general, the price of meat has come down since it peaked earlier this year, and some cuts and varieties are actually cheaper than a year ago. If you’re more of a ham family, the price of a bone-in ham has fallen by about 50 cents per pound since 2019. And if this feels like a year to declare “let them eat steak!” filet mignon is nearly 40% less per pound than it was in 2019. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.