This time of year, the Westside Market cranks up its walk-in refrigerator — used predominantly for summer demands in tourist-driven West Cape May — to handle the influx of fresh turkeys.
Owner Patrick Sluk said the specialty Jaindl-brand Grand Champion turkeys he carries will cost the same as last year — $2.99 a pound — because his distributor also kept prices the same.
“They gave us the same price so I passed it along to our customers,” he said. “I was surprised it didn’t go up, because everything else is going up.”
In the past two months, prices for food eaten at home increased more than 2 percent in the Philadelphia-Atlantic City region, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday in October’s Consumer Price Index. And poultry prices nationally have increased more than 5 percent since last October.
Yet that does not mean Thanksgiving dinner will be much more expensive this year.
In its annual informal survey, the American Farm Bureau Federation said a traditional dinner for 10 will cost only about 28 cents more than last year. The year before, it increased $5.73.
A 16-pound bird may cost 66 cents more this year, but trimmings such as fresh cranberries, green peas and pumpkin pie mix may be a few cents cheaper, said the survey, which sent 155 shoppers to check prices at grocery stores in 35 states.
Mike Senese, co-owner of Tilton Market in Northfield, said the shop has been taking orders and preparing to see the rush of people — about 500 to 600 — buying its fresh Koch-brand turkeys. The business also carries homemade stuffing, cranberry relish, candied yams with apples and also with marshmallows, and other trimmings.
Senese said while the wholesale costs of those ingredients remained stable, he did see a 20-cent wholesale increase on his turkeys this year.
Americans are expected to spend $5.3 billion on food and drink for Thanksgiving, including nearly $4.2 billion for turkey alone, according to market research firm IBISWorld.
When it comes to raising a turkey, feed is the highest cost farmers face, said Todd Davis, a senior economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation.
A drought in the Midwest this year — affecting the soybean and corn crops used as feed — has not been fully reflected yet in poultry prices, although it may have more impact next year, Davis said.
There are other factors, too.
“I think transportation cost probably doesn’t come to mind, but think about where the food is produced. It has to go through processing, and it has to work through the wholesale-retail system,” Davis said. “There are a lot of transportation and energy costs that get reflected in the meal people enjoy on their table.”
After adjusting for inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index, the average Thanksgiving dinner — according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s survey — is actually slightly cheaper than it was 25 years ago.
The federation says a homemade turkey dinner for 10 cost $24.51 in 1987, or $49.91 in today’s dollars, compared with $49.48 in 2012.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Sandy prompted a grocery store chain to lower spending limits on a popular promotion.
ShopRite, which offers frozen turkeys to club members who spend a set amount of money in the month leading up to Thanksgiving, announced it lowered the threshold to $300 this year. The chain had initially raised it to $400 this year, but reduced it following Hurricane Sandy.
Contact Brian Ianieri: