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Opinion: Are consumers optimistic or pessimistic this Thanksgiving?

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Tradition is an iconic word this time of year for good reason.

Thanksgiving dinner always starts at the same time, and the same family members gather, often at the same home. In the backyard, siblings, cousins and in-laws are pitted against each other in a friendly game of football before planting themselves in front of the TV for some real football.

The big meal is the main event, but the preparation in the days leading up to it also is part of the tradition. Each year, mom jots down her grocery list, scours the weekly ads and notes when and where to find the much-needed ingredients on sale. Many of us will be tasked with a random grocery run and a specific dish or a tasty dessert. Others are assigned paper plates or ice, due to their “burned it again” track record in the kitchen. We can’t all be the chef, but even those who almost caught the kitchen on fire contribute, because it’s tradition.

Another tradition that continues is the American Farm Bureau Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Survey. This annual survey dating back to 1986 provides a snapshot of the cost of bringing a family to the dinner table this weekend. Volunteer Farm Bureau members scour the supermarkets in early November to price the same 12 staple items that have been tracked now for 38 years. While it rightly claims not to be scientific, the survey provides a snapshot of how Americans are feeling. As expected, that depends on if food prices are trending up or down.

So, are consumers optimistic or pessimistic this season?

This year’s survey found the price of a Thanksgiving dinner is down 4.5% from last year’s all-time high. In the Midwest, you can expect to spend about $59 to put enough turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, peas, rolls and pumpkin pie (with whipped cream, of course) to feed a gathering of 10 people. We’re fortunate to live where we do, as that number is about $3 less than the nationwide average. The biggest drops year to year came from cranberries (-18.3%) and the star of the show – the turkey (-5.6%) itself.

Even though costs are down slightly in 2023’s survey, this year still features the second-most expensive Thanksgiving in the survey’s history. We are all too aware that food price inflation remains a real issue that is constraining U.S. consumers’ budgets.

Missouri farm and ranch families who feel those inflationary pressures in producing our food will continue to show up every single day with the goal of making sure people around the world have the necessary food, fiber and fuel to support daily life.

I’m grateful for them and the safe and secure food supply we are blessed with in the United States. I’m thankful for the traditions leading up to, and throughout, as we celebrate each holiday that brings families together. While Thanksgiving may look different for each of us, the stories and memories remain the same. For that, we can all be thankful.

Garrett Hawkins, a farmer from Appleton City, is president of the Missouri Farm Bureau. He can be reached at


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