Be thankful for cheaper turkey this Thanksgiving

Last year, the emotional price at the Thanksgiving table may have been high given conversation in the wake of 2016's still-fresh presidential election. Your relatives might still extract a cost, but this year the price of your meal (in dollars, anyway) should take slightly less of a toll.

Americans are paying the least amount on dinner with all the usual fixings since 2013, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual survey.

The average price of this year's Thanksgiving feast for 10 is about $49.12, a 75-cent drop from last year's total, according to the AFBF, which has conducted the survey since 1986.

The menu for the Farm Bureau's informal survey includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and coffee and milk, with enough for leftovers.

Unlike the price of a dozen roses on Valentine's day, turkeys are typically less expensive around the holiday that features the bird, Jay L. Zagorsky, an economist and researcher at Ohio State University wrote in a piece on the academic website The Conversation.

That's because unlike roses, grocery operators expect consumers to buy other things for the meal and consider the not-very-profitable birds a lure. The average wholesale price for turkey last year was $1.17 per  pound, while the average retail price was $1.55,  he wrote, citing US Department of Agriculture figures.

That comes out to less than 40 cents of profit per pound. For other meats, the USDA reports a difference between wholesale and retail of $2.79 per pound for beef and $2.25 per pound for pork in 2016.

"Because of the desire to attract people to stores, the supply of turkeys needs to skyrocket just before the holiday so that freezer cases overflow with the birds," he wrote.

Turkey stocks have steadily risen over time, including in recent years, according to the USDA's Economic Research Service. Typically, inventory builds up through September, then dwindles until December as stores buy more than 300 million pounds of turkey and put them on sale, Zagorsky wrote. The cycle begins again in January.

The 500 million to 600 million pounds of turkey in cold storage by the end of each summer maps out to roughly two pounds for every man, woman and child in the US as the season begins, he wrote. That's a lot of bird.

For this year's Farm Bureau survey, 141 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 39 states. They were asked to look for the best possible prices without using special promotional coupons for deals.

The biggest cost -- the turkey itself -- came in at $22.38 for a 16-pound bird. That's about $1.40 per pound, a 2-cent-a pound decline, or about 36 cents total, versus last year.

Other items that dropped the most included a gallon of milk, a dozen rolls, two nine-inch pie shells, a three-pound bag of sweet potatoes and one-pound bag of green peas.