The real cost of Thanksgiving turkey on your wallet - November 2016

Americans to spend over $1.05 billion on Thanksgiving turkey this year

Credit card debt is expected to reach new highs as the silly season swings into gear!

The humble turkey dinner on Thanksgiving is a staple for most households across America. In fact, 85 percent of Americans will consume 45 million turkeys on Thanksgiving day, according to a 2015 report by the National Turkey Federation. This trend is likely to continue, with an expected 276 million Americans enjoying the festive feast once again this year.

So how much will this tasty poultry feast cost? We crunched the numbers and found that Americans will be spending over $1.05 billion turkeys alone this Thanksgiving, on November 24. That’s before any of the trimmings and beverages they’ll also consume. estimates that a 16 pound turkey will cost $23.44 this Thanksgiving, projected based on the past five years of data from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

And being the month before the biggest holiday season of the year, November is one of the most expensive months for credit cardholders. Last year, Americans’ combined credit card debt reached $733 billion in the last quarter of 2015 (October-December) – an increase of $19 billion from the previous quarter. We’re expecting November to be an even bigger month of credit card spending this year.

How does Thanksgiving spending compare to Christmas?

The week of Thanksgiving is one of the highest-selling weeks for all food and beverage categories combined in the U.S., second only to the week of Christmas, according to Nielsen’s Advanced Fresh Perspective data.

Despite this, turkey sales just top the amount of money spent on candy at Christmas time, with $1.049 billion spent on the seasonal sweet stuff compared to $1.054 estimated to be spent on turkeys this Thanksgiving.

Copy of Fall Festival

Our fave Thanksgiving turkey recipes:

  1. Watch Wolfgang Puck’s turkey recipe and tips
  2. “The best turkey in the world” according to Jamie Oliver
  3. Martha Stewart compiles a neat gallery of her favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipes
  4. Rachael Ray’s cider-soaked spatchcock turkey recipe
  5. Essential turkey tips and tricks from kitchn
  6. Juicy Thanksgiving turkey recipe
  7. This “best turkey recipe ever”

Tips for choosing a Thanksgiving turkey

  • Aim for at least one pound of uncooked turkey per person. This should be enough to feed everyone as well as provide leftovers.
  • Fresh or frozen? Either is just fine, so base the decision on what works best with your schedule, but always check the sell-by date if you’re buying it fresh, and give yourself at least 24 hours refrigerator thawing time for every five pounds of frozen turkey.
  • Prices per pound can range from as low as $0.59 in some supermarkets to $7 and higher for heritage turkeys, so shop around for the best deal based on your tastes, farming philosophy and wallet. Here’s a look at the average cost of 16 pound turkey:

Cost of thankgiving turkey 2016 proejcted4

Thanksgiving Turkey facts:

  • 77% of whole turkeys sold throughout the year are sold during the month of November and nearly 400 million pounds of turkey are sold in November, according to Nielsen.
  • President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.
  • The White House tradition of “pardoning” a turkey has been traced to President Lincoln in 1863.
  • A baby turkey is called a Poult.
  • June is National Turkey Lovers’ month.
  • Minnesota produces the most Turkey of all the states.
  • Turkey is healthier than any other protein source, according to the National Turkey Federation. A three-ounce serving of cooked skinless turkey has fewer calories from fat, zero saturated fat and 8% more protein than chicken.

Not sure how to pay for Thanksgiving this year?

There’s no doubt that thanksgiving is an expensive holiday for many families across America. And lack of funds can dampen the festive season.’s Money Expert, Michelle Hutchison, says it pays to shop around before hitting the mall or your favorite online store.

“Thanksgiving is a special day for enjoying time with friends and family but it is also one of the most expensive days of the year for many families, especially if you are the one hosting. Turkey prices vary from store to store, with some as low as $0.59 a pound if you spend a minimum on other produce, so it pays to shop around.

“But what is really going to save you money in the long-term is setting a budget ahead of time. Creating a budget can help you avoid having to use your credit card and accruing interest if you don’t pay it off in time. If you do find yourself using your credit card more than usual and struggle to pay it off, it’s worth considering a balance transfer where you can transfer your debt to another card with low or no interest for a certain period of time.


  • To calculate the total spend on turkeys this Thanksgiving, projected the average cost of a 16 pound turkey ($23.44) based on the average growth of cost over the past five years (1.72%) sourced from the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table, 2015 report.
  • In November 2015, it was estimated that 45 million turkeys will be eaten on Thanksgiving Day according to the National Turkey Federation.
  • We multiplied the projected cost of a 16 pound turkey ($23.44) by 45 million turkeys to find a total of $1,054,582,037 or over $1.05 billion expected to be spent on Thanksgiving turkeys this year.
  • Credit card debt was sourced from the Federal Reserve Consumer Credit data, revolving credit, month-on-month growth from October-November 2015.

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