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Lesson

# Let’s Talk Turkey: Inflation and the Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner

Updated: November 1 2023,
Author: Rich MacDonald

### Concepts

How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving? Are you joined by friends and/or family for a special feast? What do you eat? Most American families celebrate Thanksgiving by cooking turkey. According to EatTurkey.com, approx. 88 percent of U.S. households eat turkey on Thanksgiving at an average weight of 16 lbs a turkey that adds up to 736 million pounds that will be eaten this Thanksgiving.

### Introduction

How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving? Are you joined by friends and/or family for a special feast? What do you eat? Most American families celebrate Thanksgiving by cooking turkey. According to www.butterball.com, 90 percent of U.S. households eat turkey on Thanksgiving and 50 percent eat turkey on Christmas day.

Have you ever wondered what it costs to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberries, and other goodies? The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has conducted a Thanksgiving dinner price survey for each year since 1986. Surveyed shoppers are asked to report local costs of twelve basic items found on the dinner table on Thanksgiving day. Survey responses are used to determine the average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner prepared for 10 people.

1. According to AFBF, what was the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people in 2022?  (\$64.05)
2. How does this compare to the previous year’s (2021) cost?  (It is \$10.74 more than last year)

### Learning Objectives

• Explain that a price index is used to measure the price level.
• Explain that a change in a price index represents inflation or deflation.
• Explain that an increase in the price level indicates inflation while a decrease in the price level is referred to as deflation.
• Explain that a price index is constructed by comparing current prices of a market basket of items to the prices of the same market basket of items in some base year.
• Inform students how to create their own price index.

### Process

The twelve components of the survey can be thought of as a Thanksgiving market basket of items. This is similar to the procedure that is used in tabulating the monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI measures the monthly change in the cost of a fixed market basket of items that is purchased by the typical urban household. The monthly cost of this market basket is compared to the cost of the same basket during a previous year OR a predetermined base year (this is the year in which the price index is usually set equal to 100 that is used to compare changes in economic variables).

Students can practice creating a market basket of goods using the items purchased for Thanksgiving dinner and use those numbers to create a price index.  The American Farm Bureau creates a handy list of items and their prices.  Teachers can then refer back to this process when studying the Consumer Price Index to make it more concrete for students.

A.  Create a Thanksgiving Price Index  –  Print out a copy of Thanksgiving Price Chart for Students for each student.

1. Have students add up the cost of the Thanksgiving Market Basket for 2021 and again for 2022.
2. Have students use these numbers to calculate the “Thanksgiving Price Index”. Formula:  Take the price of the Market Basket of the year of interest and divide by the price of the Market Basket of the base year, then multiply by 100.  In this case we’re interested in knowing the price index for 2022 and we plan to use 2021 as the base year.
3. By comparing the Thanksgiving price index to its base-year value, we can see how much the average price level has changed over time. We can also use two consecutive annual price index measurements to determine the rate of inflation (an increase in the average price level) or deflation (a decrease in the average price level). [Note: The Thanksgiving market basket is an illustrative example of a price index. This index should not be confused with the CPI as the ‘Thanksgiving basket’ is much smaller and thus much less representative.]

B.  Return to “Classic Thanksgiving Dinner Costing More in 2022.” The AFBF has tracked the average cost of the same basket of Thanksgiving dinner items since 1986. This allows us to make meaningful comparisons of the total costs reported in past surveys.

1. What was the cost of the Thanksgiving meal in 1986? [\$28.74]
2. How does this compare to the 2022 cost? [The 2022 cost was 122.8 percent higher. 64.05 – 28.74/28.74 = 35.31/28.74 = 1.228 1.228 x 100 = 122.8%]
3. How does the 2022 Thanksgiving dinner cost compare to its value one year earlier? [It was 20% percent higher. See Farm Bureau info]

C.   How is Inflation Measured?  Explaining the CPI

1. Show the following video to students https://mru.org/courses/principles-economics-macroeconomics/united-states-measure-inflation

D  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began collecting family expenditure data in 1917 and published its first price indexes for select cities in 1919.  The Minneapolis Fed has collected this historical data on the rate of inflation on the following site  https://www.minneapolisfed.org/community/financial-and-economic-education/cpi-calculator-information/consumer-price-index-and-inflation-rates-1913 .   The years from 1982-84 are considered the base period in the construction of the CPI. That is, 1982-84 = 100 in calculating the CPI.

1. What was the annual rate of inflation for 2021? [4.7 percent].
2. How is this calculated? [The percentage increase between the CPI in 2021 and the CPI in 2020. Formula: Inflation rate using CPI = Current year – base year divided by base year x 100.  271-258.8/258.8 = 12.2/258.8 = .0471.  .0471 x 100 = 4.7%]
3. By what percentage have consumer prices (based on 2022 estimate) increased since the base period of 1982-1984? (194.4 percent. This is the percentage increase in the current CPI (294.4) from its base year value of 100.  Inflation rate using CPI = Current year – base year divided by base year x 100.   294.4-100/100 = 194.4/100 = 1.944   1.944 x 100 = 194.4% )

E. 2023 will see prices drop.  Have students analyze the charts in this article and compare the date to 2022.  https://www.fb.org/market-intel/as-turkey-production-rises-prices-drop-just-in-time-for-thanksgiving

### Conclusion

The price system in a market economy is subject to constant changes in information about the relative values of goods and services. Changes in prices are a reflection of new information being digested by the market about the supply and demand for goods. The goal of calculating inflation is to determine whether or not the changes in price are real or nominal phenomena. Given the fact that the supply of money and credit typically expanding, one can assume that over time prices will rise at some rate. However, the rate of increase is not given and can usually only be determined after the fact. By calculating the rate of inflation, individuals can determine whether or not the price increases or decreases are subject to the forces of supply and demand or if they are caused by a loss or gain in purchasing power of a currency.