We go shopping to see how inflation affected the Thanksgiving meal this year. : The Indicator from Planet Money Thanksgiving isn't immune from inflation — an annual survey recently found that a holiday meal for four is 20 percent more expensive than it was last year. We bring the Indicator team around the dinner table for a very nerdy Thanksgiving.

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Inflation hits the Thanksgiving dinner table

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This is THE INDICATOR FROM PLANET MONEY. I'm Darian Woods, and I am here with THE INDICATOR team for a very special Thanksgiving episode. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

COREY BRIDGES, BYLINE: Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble.



Happy Thanksgiving.


All right.

WOODS: And we are here to share a meal and learn about the economics of it - specifically, how much more expensive is a Thanksgiving dinner this year and why? We're going to chow down after the break.


BRIDGES: Thanks for having us over.

MA: Is there, like, assigned seating here?


WOODS: So I've got everybody to bring an item they'd have on a Thanksgiving meal, and we're going to learn about how much it costs and also how much it's risen in price and maybe a fun fact along the way.

MA: Ooh.

WONG: Yes.


WOODS: We've got our information on price increases from the American Farm Bureau Federation, which is a lobby group. And they make what's essentially a Thanksgiving price index every year. Here's Roger Cryan, their chief economist.

ROGER CRYAN: The headline for our survey, which we've been doing every year for 37 years, is that the Thanksgiving dinner is $64.05.


CRYAN: It's about 20% higher than last year.

WOODS: Twenty percent?

CRYAN: Twenty percent, yeah.

WONG: Ouch.

CRONIN: Oh, yeah.

KATE CONCANNON, BYLINE: And then last year was up on the year before, right?

WOODS: Yeah, it was. And this is what Roger had to say about the causes of this.

CRYAN: Inflation's a real thing, and food costs are going up also. Part of that is general inflation, but part of that is just disruption in international food system.

WOODS: Roger said that fertilizer is the big one. A quarter of the world's nitrogen fertilizer comes from Russia. That's been heavily disrupted by the war in Ukraine. Add to that the higher oil prices and the pandemic labor constraints and natural disasters in places like Florida and Pakistan. These events have all put pressure on the food supply, and it's pushed up prices. But what are we going to do for this episode is we're going to dive into each ingredient that you brought along. So first up, Adrian Ma.

MA: OK. So I bought a pound of frozen peas. And frozen peas, according to the American Farm Bureau, are 23% more expensive than last Thanksgiving.

WOODS: OK. Well, I'm having less of those this year for - you know, for affordability reasons.

CRONIN: Veggies off the menu.

MA: (Laughter) No veggies. I mean, so one of the things that actually surprised me - and this - maybe this is just, like - I got it from a website that - called, like, peas.org. So maybe this is just, like, pea industry propaganda. But they said...

WONG: That sounds like Big Pea.


MA: Big Pea says that a hundred-calorie serving of peas has as much protein as an egg. And I did cross-reference this with the eggs in my fridge, and apparently, this is true.


DYLAN SLOAN, BYLINE: Yeah, pea protein, pea protein.

WOODS: Well, thanks for that, Adrian. Moving on to THE INDICATOR's new fact-checker, Sierra Juarez.


CRONIN: Whoo (ph).

WOODS: Welcome to our INDICATOR meal.

JUAREZ: Thank you.

WOODS: And what have you brought us?

JUAREZ: I bought a one-gallon of whole milk, and at my local grocery store, it was 3.46. And milk is up 16% since last Thanksgiving.

WOODS: I mean, that one really hurts. Like, milk is a staple. But if you want a little bit of price relief, you can stock up on, I don't know, sweet potatoes.

CRONIN: Potatoes.

MA: (Laughter).

WOODS: I bought three pounds of sweet potatoes that were $1.43, so pretty cheap. But sweet potatoes in general around the country are up 11%.

CRONIN: You got any potato facts?

WOODS: So George Washington Carver was an agricultural scientist a hundred years ago. He was also born into slavery. And he found that there were more than a hundred uses for the humble sweet potato. You could use it as writing ink.


WOODS: You could use it as synthetic cotton. You could even make a kind of instant coffee kind of substance out of it.

WONG: Basically, you're just, like, drinking, like, hot water with, like, some, like, very...


NICKY OUELLET, BYLINE: With some dirt.

WONG: ...Minimal flavoring...


WONG: ...Pretending like it's coffee.

SLOAN: It's pumpkin spice variant.


CRONIN: The original PSL.

WONG: Oh, my gosh.

WOODS: All right. We're going to turn now to cranberries.

WONG: That's me. I got the cranberries. I got them right here.

WOODS: Woohoo (ph).

WONG: I got a 12-ounce bag for $2.29. And here is a fun fact. Cranberries is the only item on the menu that went down this year. It's down 14%.

WOODS: So we could just make more of the meal out of cranberries, like a cranberry kind of salad with a cranberry sauce followed by a cranberry dessert.

WONG: Oh, yeah. That's what I'm going to make. I'm going to make cranberry dessert.

WOODS: Excellent. We're getting closer to the main dish. We now have a bag of cubed stuffing mix. Brittany Cronin...

CRONIN: That's me.

WOODS: ...What'd you find?

CRONIN: I paid 2.99 for my stuffing mix. According to the Farm Bureau, stuffing mix is up 69% from last year.

WOODS: What?

WONG: Oh, my gosh.

WOODS: Sixty-nine percent.

CRONIN: I know. I know.

BRIDGES: That's my favorite part of the meal.

WOODS: This is like hyperinflation.

CRONIN: Yeah. It's actually driven by a flour shortage due to the war in Ukraine.

WONG: Oh, man, I feel like you are way better off just buying a loaf of bread and letting it...

CRONIN: I am, yeah.

WONG: ...Get stale and, like, making it from scratch, even though it's, like, another chore.

CRONIN: There's another way, people.


WOODS: OK, how long does stuffing mix last? If last year, I just put, like, an entire, like, garage full of stuffing mix, I'd be pretty well off this year.

CRONIN: Here's the stuffing mix. This bag is sell by February 7, 2024. Wow.

MA: Oh, wow.


CRONIN: Now, that's what I call shelf life.


WONG: Mic drop.


SLOAN: Someone's got to start the Thanksgiving ETF.


CRONIN: Thanksgiving...

WOODS: Yeah. Thanksgiving ETF will be doing pretty well. OK, well, let's go to the main dish - the turkey. Kate Concannon, editor of THE INDICATOR, what'd you find?

CONCANNON: OK. So my turkey this year - and full disclosure, I don't cook it myself. I always buy it cooked. So that said, my turkey this year was $87.67.


CONCANNON: And that's for a cooked 10- to 12-pound turkey. And according to the Farm Bureau, turkey is up 21% this year.

WOODS: Wow. Turkey prices are pretty important. This is a big fraction of the Thanksgiving meal. I spoke to the Farm Bureau chief economist Roger Cryan about this.

CRYAN: Turkey prices are high for a couple reasons. One of them is just general price inflation, and it's raising input costs for farmers. Farmers are facing higher costs. The other challenge that we - farmers had this year in the poultry sector was a highly pathogenic avian influenza.

WOODS: Bird flu.

CRYAN: It's a type of bird flu. And then turkey production to date is down about 2% in terms of the number of birds.

WOODS: So, yeah, bird flu - this is what economists call a supply shock. And it makes the traditional Thanksgiving turkey more expensive.

CONCANNON: Yeah, a double whammy, for sure.

WOODS: OK. The main dish has been consumed. We now move on to dessert. So a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix - Corey Bridges.

BRIDGES: Yes. I love dessert, so of course, I had to get the pumpkin pie mix. So my pumpkin pie mix, 30 ounce, was 4.99. And the pumpkin pie mix, according to the American Farm Bureau, is up 18% year over year.

JUAREZ: Tragic.

CONCANNON: Can I say something unpopular, maybe? I think that's a good thing. I mean, pumpkin pie is horrible. I don't understand why people like pumpkin pie. I get pecan pie.

WOODS: Controversial opinion.


MA: So this is the pumpkin pie hate that we need to get us the deflation that we rightly deserve.

WONG: Oh, wow, wow.


WOODS: That's true. All right, INDICATOR intern Dylan Sloan, what are we seeing in the market for frozen pie crusts?

SLOAN: Yes, Darian. So I went out. You can't have pumpkin pie without the crust. And I paid $4.99 for a two-pack of nine-inch frozen pie crusts. And the price of pie crusts has increased 26% year over year.

WOODS: Wow. Another really high price rise. Half pint of whipping cream - producer Nicky Ouellet.

OUELLET: Well, I feel like I failed because the store I went to, the entire shelf of whipping cream products was completely bought out. But if I could have bought a half pint of whipping cream, it would have cost 2.99. And according to the Farm Bureau, whipping cream is up about 26% over last year. The price of canned whipping cream is actually also high due to a yearslong shortage of nitrous oxide that's been made worse because of the conflict in Ukraine.

WOODS: I mean, I'm just tempted to just buy cranberries this year.

OUELLET: I'm just going to make a big jello, cranberry jello, in the mold of a turkey, and that will be my centerpiece.

WONG: I love that. You could put some fruit cocktail in the middle.

CRONIN: You should hide something in it.

OUELLET: Ooh, like a ring.

SLOAN: If you're from the '70s, you could stuff it with tuna salad or something like that.

CRONIN: Ew. What?


BRIDGES: Nasty, nasty.

WONG: Would eat. I would eat that.

WOODS: Well, it's been a pleasure having you all around this economic Thanksgiving table. And happy Thanksgiving.

WONG: Happy Thanksgiving.

MA: Happy Thanksgiving.

CRONIN: Happy Thanksgiving.

OUELLET: Gobble, gobble.

WONG: Gobble, gobble.

MA: All right.


OUELLET: See you all next year.


WOODS: This show is produced by Brittany Cronin with engineering by Robert Rodriguez. It was fact-checked by Dyan Sloan. Viet Le is our senior producer, and Kate Concannon edits the show. THE INDICATOR is a production of NPR.


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