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This year's Thanksgiving dinner may be the most expensive in history, economists say

Thanksgiving Dinner
Posted at 8:41 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 23:47:03-05

DENVER — This year's Thanksgiving may be the most expensive one yet, according to some economists.

For Denver resident Jennifer Hill, that means hosting Thanksgiving without a turkey this year.

"We're just keeping it very small. We've never gone this small before, and that's fine," Hill said. "It's really tough. Got to pinch pennies to make something special."

Going small for the Hill family means they can do more for other families this Thanksgiving.

"I've just been saving so that way I can provide a few families in my community a nice meal for them because I know what it's like. I've been homeless, and I know what it's like to go without a meal on that holiday," Hill said. "I don't want anybody else to have to go through that."

Jeffrey Zax, a University of Colorado professor of economics, points the finger at supply chain issues for the spike in the cost of turkeys and other Thanksgiving-related recipes.

"When supply is reduced and demand is not, price goes up," Zax said. "What's available to us is going to be less than we would ordinarily expect. In economist's terms, that means supply is going to be reduced."

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, turkey production is down 2% this year because of worker shortages and a lack of truck drivers getting turkeys on store shelves.

The average price of an eight-to-16 pound frozen turkey went up from a $1.15 per pound to $1.41, a 22% increase, according to a USDA Turkey Market News Report.

Despite the supply shortage and increase in demand, Zax doesn't anticipate a widespread phenomenon of empty turkey shelves.

"We may rush out and buy one, but it's not like toilet paper where we're going to stockpile and buy four," Zax said. "As Thanksgiving approaches, you'll see people thinking about alternate menus."

Instacart shopper Chrissie Norris would attest to those alternate menus. She says all of her orders are usually Thanksgiving-related this time of year, but not this time around.

Norris says some turkeys found their way back to the shelf once customers saw the receipt.

"They called us back because they didn't want the turkey because the weight of it was so much," Norris said. "You can't pay $27 for a turkey under three pounds. That's freaking ridiculous."