Nov 28, 2019

The economics of a Thanksgiving meal

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The holidays are often a pricey time for families. But new numbers show that the cost of an average Thanksgiving meal remained steady this year — with certain staples actually seeing a cut.

Where it stands: The average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 is up only one cent — to $48.91 — from last year's total, the American Farm Bureau Federation reports. A 16-pound bird costs about $20.80 — or about $1.30 per pound — down 4% from last year.

  • The total price includes "turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk."
  • According to the survey, "retail turkey prices are the lowest since 2010."

Between the lines: Concerns about U.S. trade disputes have centered on costs rising for consumers, NBC News notes. But things have worked in consumers' favor when it comes to Thanksgiving, a holiday that — not surprisingly, given its presumed origin as a harvest celebration in Plymouth, Mass. — favors homegrown products.

  • An oversupply of some domestic goods, possibly fueled by tariffs on imports, has brought down some costs.
  • A 4-pound ham is set to be about $2 cheaper due to effects from trade conflicts with China and Mexico. (The Federation survey reports that 49% of its 2,200 respondents serve ham and turkey at Thanksgiving.)
  • Canned pumpkin pie filling and cubed bread stuffing will also cost less this year.

But, but, but... While lower prices are great for consumers, the agriculture industry is struggling. Farmers receive only 8 cents for every $1 of food sold, per the Federation.

  • Nearly 13,000 farms went out of business in 2018, NBC reports, citing the USDA.
  • "Low commodity prices over the past five years have been a key factor, exacerbated when agricultural exports to China were curtailed last year," according to NBC.
  • "That put further pressure on farms operating on thin margins."

The other side: Some imported delicacies will likely become more expensive — like certain cheeses and alcoholic beverages.

  • By year's end, a 25% tariff on $7.5 billion of European Union goods could hike the price of English cheddar and Italian Parmesan.
  • French wines and Scotch whiskey would also face the tariff.

Go deeper

Big retailers are pushing tariff costs on to smaller merchants

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Big retailers like Bed, Bath and Beyond, Target, and TJX Brands are refusing to accept tariff price increases from their brand suppliers, telling the companies they will have to either eat the tariff costs or find another buyer.

Why it matters: This forces the costs of President Trump's trade war with China down to smaller businesses that can hardly afford them, while the big companies keep the impact of tariffs at bay.

Go deeperArrowNov 22, 2019

The trade war is kind of working

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

U.S. manufacturers and small businesses have been hit hard by the trade war, but recent data shows that China is really suffering.

Driving the news: China's total exports fell for the 12th straight month in November, dropping 1.1% from a year ago, and exports to the U.S. have fallen more than 20%, according to China’s customs administration.

Holiday shoppers are unfazed by recession fears

Reproduced from an Experian chart; Chart: Axios Visuals

More Americans say they are worried about a recession next year and are getting more cautious about their spending habits and debt, but that didn't slow down their holiday shopping.

Driving the news: Data from Adobe Analytics shows Black Friday spending increased by nearly 20% over last year, rising to $7.4 billion, even as fewer retailers offered big in-store discounts. Brick-and-mortar stores saw an overall 6% decline in sales, according to preliminary data from ShopperTrak.

Go deeperArrowDec 2, 2019