TALKING TURKEY

How the price of Thanksgiving dinner has risen for traditionalists, hipsters, and gluttons

Let’s talk turkey: Thanksgiving isn’t getting any cheaper.

Over the past 20 years, the prices of turkey, potatoes, biscuits, pies, and other core Thanksgiving fare have risen steadily in the US. To help quantify this rise, Quartz cooked up the TURKEY Inflation IndexTM (Thanksgiving Underlying Rate of Key Economic Yardsticks) using relevant items from the cornucopia of goods tracked in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the interest of serving all readers, we sliced it three ways: traditional Thanksgiving, hipster Thanksgiving, and a Thanksgiving of debauchery.

The traditional Thanksgiving

Let’s start with the classics. These are the ingredients in a traditional Thanksgiving spread:

Fresh biscuits, rolls, muffins
Butter
Potatoes
Canned fruits
Other poultry including turkey
Ham, excluding canned
Sauces and gravies
Salt and other seasonings and spices
Frozen and refrigerated bakery products, pies, tarts, turnovers
Wine at home

Over the past 20 years, the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving has increased by about 47%, assuming you bought the same amount of every item in the basket over time. (This, of course, implies that guests at your feast get as much butter as fruit and as much gravy as wine, which may be the case for some calorie-indifferent households but probably varies a bit more in real life. Do not make investment decisions based on the TURKEY IndexTM.)

The main factor driving up inflation in our traditional index is the humble potato, which in 2017 cost 85% more per spud than in 1998. That sort of inflation for a crucial Thanksgiving staple is enough to drive you to drinking—good thing that “wine at home” has risen relatively little in price over the same period.

The hipster Thanksgiving

Ugh, yams? And don’t start with the pumpkin pie. This is 2017 and Thanksgiving is overdue a bit of disruption. Bring on the kale, cupcakes, and other features of a hipster Thanksgiving:

Bread other than white
Butter
Dried beans, peas, and lentils
Other fresh vegetables
Other fresh fruits
Other poultry including turkey (some things are sacred)
Olives, pickles, relishes
Salt and other seasonings and spices
Fresh cakes and cupcakes
Wine at home
Whiskey at home (a hipster staple)

The price of a hipster Thanksgiving has risen a bit more than its traditional counterpart, with prices up 50% compared with 20 years ago. Hipsters are paying for dried beans, peas, and lentils, which have nearly doubled in price over the last 20 years, as well as for the rustic non-white breads they serve on their distressed driftwood tables. Olives, pickles, and relishes have also seen a hint more inflation than the more traditional sauces and gravies, while fresh cakes and cupcakes have risen in price more than frozen pies, tarts, and turnovers. Adding whiskey into the mix also ups the booze bill.

The Thanksgiving of debauchery

Last but not least, let’s dispense with the nuance. Get a load of this rundown for the most indulgent, least Puritan of all the Thanksgivings:

Fresh biscuits, rolls, muffins
Butter
Cheese and related products
Bacon and related products
Potatoes
Other poultry including turkey (some things are sacred)
Ham, excluding canned (but why not both?)
Sauces and gravies
Salt and other seasonings and spices
Frozen and refrigerated bakery products, pies, tarts, turnovers
Ice cream and related products
Wine at home
Beer, ale, and other malt beverages at home
Distilled spirits, excluding whiskey, at home
Whiskey at home

While the overall cost of assembling this meal is higher, because of all its components—“would you like more cheese with your gravy, dear?”—inflation for this bacchanal is actually on par with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with prices up 47% from 20 years ago. Pacing the rise are bacon prices (up 105% from 20 years ago).

Overall, though, inflation for our basket of debauchery is tempered by the many desserts and alcohols it includes, which have seen only modest price increases in recent years. Although we stuck strictly to food for this index, antacid or stronger indigestion-related pharmaceuticals are probably not optional for a feast this decadent. U-S-A! U-S-A!

The image at the top of this post was shared under a Creative Commons license on Flickr. It has been cropped.

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