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Why are turkey prices lower this Thanksgiving?

Good Question: Why are turkey prices lower this Thanksgiving?
Good Question: Why are turkey prices lower this Thanksgiving? 02:32

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. -- Great news for those in charge of cooking for the upcoming holiday: Turkey prices are going down just in time for Thanksgiving. 

The rare drop had us wondering: What goes into the price of turkey? And why is it cheaper this year? Good Question. 

Talking turkey can be a costly conversation, but the word on the bird this season is far from foul, especially the price you pay at the store.

"I'm gonna get a Butterball, you know it," shopper Catherine Coney said with a smile as she walked through Cub Foods.

Turkey prices on store shelves are down 9-13%, according to the 2023 Wells Fargo Thanksgiving Report. Michael Swanson, an agriculture economist for Wells Fargo, helps research and write the report each year.

"Minnesota produces one out of four turkeys in this country, over a billion pounds in a year," he said.

Turkey farmers were optimistic this summer according to Swanson, adding 2-3% more birds into their barns in preparation for Thanksgiving. The small percentage points equate to millions of turkeys.

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"Well, (the farmers) all did it at the same time and the wholesale prices have really cratered. They're down 30% from a year ago," said Swanson.

It's a simple case of supply and demand leading to lower prices at the store, but that wasn't the only factor.

What goes into the price of a turkey? "It's mostly the feed costs and feed costs have been elevated for the past couple years," said Swanson.

After feed costs, Swanson said it's the barn expenses, then labor to raise the hatchlings to a plump 25 pounds and the shipping to get them to store shelves. That last factor dropped in costs as well. Refrigerated trucks are charging $3.30 per mile, down from $3.80 a year ago.

While the bird flu continues to threaten the industry, it was more impactful on Thanksgiving prices in 2022.

"It was kind of a double hit last year. Fewer birds to start with and then losing some of them (to the flu) was not very helpful for the supply," he said.

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"It's expensive to be a farmer these days, it's not an easy life," added another Cub customer. 

If there's any concern about higher prices, shop smart when it comes to Thanksgiving sides this year.

Canned cranberries shot up in price by 60%, while canned pumpkin is up 30% compared to last year.

The price of a bushel of corn right now is $4.70, down from about $6.50 a year ago. Swanson says that could trickle down to cheaper prices at the grocery store next Thanksgiving.

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