Thanksgiving dinner isn’t actually unusually expensive this year

The news stories claimed that Thanksgiving dinner would cost 14% more this time around. With the price of turkey in particular up 25%, they warned the average holiday meal for 10 people would cost $53.31, a $6.41 increase from last year. The source for these bombastic stories was a survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation. And these numbers aren’t wrong. They just make things sound worse than they actually are.

It’s misleading to focus just on sticker prices of what a Thanksgiving meal costs when what really matters is how much of your purchasing power it consumes. If sticker prices have risen but wages have as well, then it’s not actually “more expensive” in the most meaningful sense.

Analysts Marian Tupy and Gale Pooley at HumanProgress.org examined how Thanksgiving meal prices have changed in terms of real purchasing power. They found that this year, it will cost the typical person 2.03 hours of work to pay for Thanksgiving dinner, compared to 1.88 hours last year. That’s still an increase, yes, but it’s a 7% increase — half the stated 14% increase.