Thanksgiving grocery store costs hit record highs, retail experts predict

Madeline Carpentiere and her family have had a change of plans.

As the family sees grocery prices rise in stores and expect food shortages, the family is breaking with tradition by not making Thanksgiving dinner at home this year, says Carpentiere of Old Bethpage.

“We’re actually going for one [hotel] buffet at a fixed price. … It would be cheaper, “she said while attending a Walmart Supercenter in Farmingdale on Thursday.

This year’s homemade Thanksgiving dinner is likely to be the most expensive in the holiday’s history, retail experts predict.

“Food prices have largely risen sharply right now compared to the last few months and especially compared to a year ago,” said James Bohnaker, an economist at the Boston office of IHS Markit, a London-based market information service.

Average prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs in October were 11.9% higher than a year earlier, Bohnaker said, referring to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ consumer price index.

“The 12-month percentage change… is among the highest 12-month growth ever,” he said.

Lack of labor, transportation and supply chain amid the COVID-19 pandemic are among the causes, retail experts said.

“All of this has a huge increase in retail costs that they can no longer just absorb. So they are partially passed on to the prices on the shelf,” says Jon Hauptman, senior director of Inmar Intelligence, a retail industry. research firm in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

At Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace, the cost of some staples, especially canned food, will increase by about 10% due to suppliers’ cost increases, said Danielle Lanciotti, spokeswoman for the Farmingdale-based chain of nine Italian specialty stores in New York and New Jersey.

Uncle Giuseppe’s sells frozen turkeys, but its fresh, all-natural, free-range birds are significantly more popular, she said. The price of fresh turkey will remain unchanged compared to last year – $ 2.99 per. pounds, she said.

Product shortages are not expected as Uncle Giuseppes has different suppliers and “years of strong supplier relationships,” she said.

The cost of feeding turkeys is rising

Miloski’s Poultry Farm, which breeds all-natural, free-range birds in Calverton, will have its normal number of turkeys this year, around 3,000, said Mark Miloski, co-owner of the 75-year-old family business.

But the difference this year is significantly higher operating costs, he said.

“Feed costs have doubled since last year,” he said.

So the price of turkeys that the farm sells was increased from $ 5.50 per. pounds last year to $ 6.

Last year, the average nationwide price of groceries for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people was $ 46.90, including a turkey that costs about $ 1.21 per pound, according to a 2020 survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The federation’s 2021 survey results are not available yet, but declining COVID infection rates and the widespread availability of vaccines will mean more people gather in homes for Thanksgiving this year.

Consumers will shop for Thanksgiving earlier than usual because they expect a shortage, experts said.

“The good news is that there is actually plenty of food in the system … but getting to the right place at the right time is challenging due to transportation and labor shortages,” said Andy Harig, vice president of tax, trade , Sustainability and Policy Development at the Food Marketing Institute, an Arlington, Virginia-based trading group representing the food industry, including retailers and manufacturers.

But shoppers will find less variation on grocery store shelves, said Miguel I. Gómez, an associate professor at Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.

“For example, you will definitely find an entire turkey, but maybe not of the weight you specifically want. Or you may not find the specific brand you are looking for,” he said.

An appetite for frozen birds

In anticipation of customers being able to shop early for turkeys this Thanksgiving, grocery store Stew Leonard’s took an unprecedented action.

The retailer typically sells only fresh turkeys, starting in mid-November, for the holidays, but this year it bought a trailer load of frozen turkeys – about 2,500 birds – which it sold in October, said Stew Leonard Jr., president of the Norwalk, Connecticut -based chain of seven supermarkets, including two on Long Island.

The frozen birds were quickly sold out, he said.

“What it kind of signaled to us is that people are a little panicky about whether they want turkeys. They might just want a backup in their freezer,” he said.

Not only did Stew Leonard’s turkey supplier reduce the grocery store’s turkey order by 30% this year, but the retailer’s wholesale prices were also increased, Leonard said.

This led to Stew Leonard raising his prices for conventional fresh turkeys – from $ 1.69 per head. pounds last year to $ 2.19 this year, he said.

But for its free-range, antibiotic-free fresh turkeys, Stew Leonard’s lowered the price from $ 2.99 per pound to $ 2.69 to encourage more customers to try that version, he said.

“I want to promise our customers that they will get a turkey at Stew Leonard’s,” he said.

Grocery Stop & Shop continues to experience cost increases from its suppliers, particularly in meat, stationery and groceries, said Stefanie Shuman, spokeswoman for the Quincy, Massachusetts-based supermarket chain, which has 51 supermarkets on Long Island.

The grocery store will match competitors’ advertised prices on turkeys, she said. There will be purchase limits on turkeys that are on sale.

“Stop & Shop stores are currently well positioned for the holidays and we do not expect to impose product limits beyond those associated with sale items and other promotional prices,” she said.

Cooking at home

Queens resident Zakaria Aunns, 40, who was shopping at Walmart Thursday, said his family wants Thanksgiving dinner at home.

“We’re going to have a regular dinner, but we’ll definitely cut back a little bit,” he said.

The family will buy a frozen turkey from a supermarket instead of a boiled turkey from Boston Market, he said. They will also use canned vegetables instead of fresh ingredients and have fewer desserts, he said.

“We keep it simple this year.”

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