By LYNNE FINNERTY
For the Capital Press
Much has changed over the years. These days, dad is as likely as mom to be in charge of preparing Thanksgiving dinner. The recipes come from websites and blogs, as well as cookbooks and family recipe cards. Many of us will travel in the sky, rather than over the hill and through the woods.
One thing that hasn't changed is that Thanksgiving dinner remains a phenomenal bargain. Another is that the American Farm Bureau Federation is still, after a quarter of a century, surveying the cost of the items needed to make the traditional meal.
This year's Thanksgiving dinner survey shows the average cost of the feast for 10 people is $43.47. The menu items in the survey include turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and basic fixings.
The survey always gets attention in the news media. Reporters can be expected to focus on the fact that this year's Thanksgiving dinner will cost more than last year's -- 56 cents more.
What the reporters might fail to mention is that this year's meal costs $1.14 less than what shoppers paid two years ago, when the total was $44.61. Also, this year's price comes out to $4.35 per person. That's less than some fast-food meals.
When the Thanksgiving dinner survey started in 1986, the bill came to $28.74. That sounds like a lot less than today's price. Adjusted for inflation, however, that $28.74 would be $57.28 today -- more than 30 percent above today's price. That is a testament to farmers' and ranchers' efficiency gains.
Another thing that hasn't changed: Tom turkey is still the star of this feast. Nearly 88 percent of us eat turkey at Thanksgiving. But, don't blame Tom for gobbling up more of your budget. A 16-pound turkey costs 6 cents per pound less this year -- at an average price of $17.66 for the whole bird.
Nope, the biggest price gainer this year is milk -- up by 38 cents per gallon. But, it isn't fair to blame the dairy farmer, either. The last two years have been tough for America's dairy farmers. Although the price of milk still isn't what it was two years ago, producers are finally catching a break. It's a good thing, since many of them went into debt when the milk price didn't cover production costs.
America's farmers and ranchers are proud of the variety and quality of the food they produce. So, it is fitting, says AFBF President Bob Stallman, that the focus of this uniquely American tradition is the food we produce from our land.
One more thing that hasn't changed is Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for our blessings, but also to remember those who aren't as blessed. America's farmers and ranchers like to know that the food they produce reaches every American's plate. That's why they have given nearly $1 million and donated more than 20 million pounds of food to feeding organizations through Farm Bureau's Harvest for All program.
This Thanksgiving, follow their lead and help a neighbor, a friend or even a stranger in need. That'll make your Thanksgiving feast -- and the nap afterward -- even better, no matter the price.
Lynne Finnerty is the editor of FBNews, the newspaper of the American Farm Bureau Federation.