As we all sit down for our Thanksgiving dinner this week, here’s an extra thing to be thankful for: the affordability of the turkey dinner.

A recent survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation projected the cost of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner will be a little less than $50 for a family of 10. That means we Americans get to enjoy the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings for about 1 percent more than a year ago.

Five bucks a person for a great meal is really remarkable, considering that farmers in Iowa and over most of the country have struggled through the worst drought in decades.

The modest price increase for this year’s turkey feast clearly demonstrates the resilience of American farmers in Iowa and over much of the country. Not long ago a drought like the one in 2012, which reduced the harvests from many Iowa farms by 30 percent or more, would have made turkey and other traditional Thanksgiving foods very expensive, or even unavailable, for the majority of Americans.

In time, the drought could eventually affect the price of turkey, and some other Thanksgiving foods, as high grain prices force farmers to adjust the size of their flocks and herds. But economists don’t expect any big food price shocks in years to come. 

So rest assured, supermarkets and specialty stores are stuffed with everything that Americans need for Thanksgiving dinner, as well as all of the other upcoming holiday celebrations. And the food choices farmers provide today continue to grow. In turkeys alone, consumers will be able to choose everything from the traditional Butterball to free-range birds fed only organically-raised grains.

How are farmers pulling off this feat? They are adopting technology, such as improved seeds and global positioning. They are learning to produce more food while using less fertilizer and other resources. And like their ancestors before them, they are putting in the hard work it takes to produce food for a hungry planet.

So pull up a chair, say your blessings and dig in to the best meal of the year. And be thankful it won’t cost an arm and a turkey leg.

Written by Dirck Steimel
Dirck is the news services manager for Iowa Farm Bureau