Turkeys are estimated to cost Americans nearly a billion dollars for Thanksgiving 2021

Research shows Americans will spend roughly $144 million more on their Thanksgiving bird this year.

Americans aren’t the only ones riding the train to Gravy Town and getting stuffed this Thanksgiving. According to the National Turkey Federation, 88% of Americans say they will be eating Thanksgiving turkey.

Last year, this equated to an expected 292 million Americans gathering to enjoy this yearly feast. For 2021, expect to see an increase of more than 700,000 turkey lovers.

Finder crunched the numbers to find out how much Americans are expected to spend on turkey this coming Thanksgiving compared to last year. An estimated total of $783 million was spent on turkey last Thanksgiving. This year, our estimates show that Americans are expected to spend $927 million, $144 million more. This increase is driven by an expected increase in the price per pound of turkey this Thanksgiving compared to last year.

This is based on a projection that 16 lb turkeys will cost $20.15 the week before Thanksgiving. To estimate this cost, we used weekly retail price data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Agricultural Marketing Service to project the weekly price of a whole, frozen turkey during Thanksgiving 2021.

Image depicting stats from Finder's Cost of a Turkey statistics page

The cost of turkeys this Thanksgiving

  • 46 million: Number of turkeys expected to be consumed on Thanksgiving Day
  • 292 million: Number of Americans likely to be eating a turkey dinner
  • 88%: Proportion of Americans to be feasting on Thanksgiving turkey
  • $927 million: Spend on turkeys this Thanksgiving

Comparing the cost of a turkey over time

Let’s take a closer look

The average price of a turkey has increased by 18.4% in 2021, from $17.03 in 2020 to $20.15 in 2021. That’s greater than than the inflation rate of 5.7% from 2020 to 2021 so far. Over the past 10 years, the swing in the price of a turkey during Thanksgiving has been more volatile than the change in inflation over the same period of time.

Quick tips from Finder’s personal finance expert, Laura Adams, MBA, on how to save money on your Thanksgiving meal:

“Many ways to save money begin by having a plan, and Thanksgiving dinner is no different. Create your menu as soon as possible so you can shop early and take advantage of grocery discounts. Also, frozen turkeys are usually less expensive than fresh ones, but they take days to thaw. So, don’t make the mistake of waiting to shop for your holiday meal; otherwise, you’ll pay the most for it.”

“Other ways to save include purchasing your dinner with a rewards credit card that pays cashback at grocery stores. You might also share the cost of your Thanksgiving meal with family or friends. If everyone chips in and brings a delicious dish, it can make the holiday more affordable for everyone you celebrate with this year.”

Fun Thanksgiving turkey facts

  • In 2020, the average American ate 15.8 pounds of turkey
  • Turkey hens (female) are usually sold as whole birds. Toms (male) are processed into turkey sausage, turkey franks, tenderloins, cutlets and deli meats.
  • The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds, about the size of a large dog.
  • Male turkeys gobble, hens do not. Female turkeys make a clicking noise.
  • In 2020, 5.22 billion pounds of turkey were consumed in the United States

Source: University of Illinois Extension

Methodology

The number of turkeys eaten each Thanksgiving was sourced from the University of Illinois Extension. The percentage of Americans that eat turkey each Thanksgiving was sourced from the .

To calculate the total spend on turkeys this Thanksgiving, finder.com projected the average cost of a 16-pound turkey this November based on the weekly price of frozen, whole turkeys from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. We forecast the price per pound of turkey based on weekly turkey prices since January 2018 using the ratio-to-moving average method to account for the seasonality in turkey prices.

We multiplied the projected cost of a 16-pound turkey by the estimated number of turkeys eaten each Thanksgiving to find the total expected to be spent on Thanksgiving turkeys this year.

Note that the projection method used from last year to this year has changed. The previous year’s projected price was based on the monthly price of turkey, whereas this year’s projected price is based on the weekly price of turkey. Additionally, last year’s total estimate was based on the projected average price of a whole turkey during the month of November, while this year’s total estimate is based on the projected average price of a whole turkey the week of Thanksgiving. This change was made since the monthly average turkey price data has not been updated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics since February 2020.

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