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Cost of Turkey Day meal drops, but not by much

This Nov. 2, 2009 file photo shows a Thanksgiving turkey. The average Turkey Day dinner will cost $49.04, or just 44 cents less in 2013 than it did in 2012. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)

This Nov. 2, 2009 file photo shows a Thanksgiving turkey. The average Turkey Day dinner will cost $49.04, or just 44 cents less in 2013 than it did in 2012. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)

Here’s another reason to be thankful this holiday season – the cost of putting Thanksgiving dinner on the table is down slightly from last year.

But don’t bank on those savings for any big Black Friday splurges. The average Turkey Day dinner will cost $49.04, or just 44 cents less this year than it did in 2012.

The good news is that after some steep price increases during the economic downturn about five years ago, food prices have remained mostly stable this year. It’s a welcome change from 2011, when the cost of Thanksgiving dinner jumped $5.73, up from $43.47 in 2010, according to the annual informal survey of consumer grocery prices performed by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The group estimates the cost by averaging non-sale food prices across the country based on feeding 10 people a meal of turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk. And yes, their estimates account for the need for those all-important leftovers.

The credit for this year’s slight drop in price goes to stable commodity and fuel prices, both strong drivers of the prices consumers pay at the store, says Ricky Volpe, a research economist with the USDA’s Economic Research Service. He says overall grocery prices are down about one-tenth of a percent since January.

One exception – poultry. Though the Farm Bureau didn’t detect a price increase in turkey since last year (they actually found the price for a 16-pound bird down 47 cents), Volpe says consumers shouldn’t be surprised if that component of the meal jumps as much as 5 percent over last year. Higher demand and feed prices are to blame.

And since it’s impossible to escape holiday creep, we might as well break the bad news about your Christmas roast. Beef prices are at or near record highs this year, so you can expect to pay as much as 2.5 percent more than last year for that succulent rib roast you’ve been waiting for all year.

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