Turkey Drives Thanksgiving Dinner Costs Down

Lower turkey prices mean a more affordable Thanksgiving dinner this year according to Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s annual Marketbasket survey.

“This year’s classic Marketbasket survey rang in more than $2.00 less than last year at this time,” said Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s spokesperson Sarah Hetke. “The survey’s total price of $45.01, when divided by 10 people, shows a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal can cost approximately $4.50 per person.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s national survey of the same items (turkey, cubed stuffing, milk, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery and pumpkin pie with whipped cream, all in quantities sufficient to serve 10 people) averaged $47.91, $3.89 more than Wisconsin’s price.

New this year, shoppers in Wisconsin and across the country were asked to find prices for three new items: bone-in ham, Russet potatoes and frozen green beans.

“The new food items are reflective of a modern Thanksgiving meal and provide additional insight into food pricing trends,” Hetke added.

In Wisconsin, the cost of the modern Marketbasket survey, with the three new items, totaled $59.30 which is $2.42 lower than the national average of $61.72.


Wisconsin’s average price for a 16-pound turkey was $20.96 in 2017. This year the price of the same 16-pound turkey is $19.04, down $1.92.

“There is a large supply of fresh and frozen turkeys in preparation for the holidays which means we are seeing lower prices in the grocery store this year,” Hetke said.


Wisconsin’s Thanksgiving Marketbasket survey is an informal, annual review of food price trends in relation to changing farm prices, weather and wholesale and retail food marketing. Wisconsin Farm Bureau members collected price samples of 15 Thanksgiving food items in 27 communities in November.

Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.

Wis. 2017 Wis. 2018 National 2018
Turkey, 16 lbs. 20.96 19.04 21.71
Milk, 1 gallon whole 3.21 2.69 2.92
Cream, half pint 1.90 1.93 2.08
Rolls, 12 2.03 2.06 2.25
Relish tray (1 lb. carrots/celery) 0.79 .86 .75
Fresh cranberries, 12 oz. 2.30 2.20 2.65
Pumpkin pie mix, 29 oz. 3.27 3.31 3.33
Pie shells (2) 2.40 2.46 2.47
Cube stuffing, 14 oz. 2.68 2.79 2.87
Sweet potatoes, 3 lbs. 3.30 3.12 3.39
Green peas, 1 lb. 1.58 1.54 1.47
Miscellaneous ingredients 2.72 3.01 3.01
Classic TOTAL $47.14 $45.01 $48.90
Modern TOTAL No data $59.30 $61.72


During the last three decades, retail grocery prices have gradually increased while the share of the average dollar spent on food that farm families receive has decreased. In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures in grocery stores and restaurants. Since then that figure has decreased steadily and is now 14.8 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Using that percentage across the board, the farmer’s share of this year’s modern Marketbasket $59.30 grocery bill is $8.78.

“This year, we can be especially thankful for the farmers who provide the food we eat not only on Thanksgiving day, but all year long,” Hetke said.

The USDA says Americans will spend approximately 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average in the world.