Turkey prices soar as families plan Thanksgiving feasts

Those wild turkeys meandering through suburban yards this fall may have reason to take cover.

Thanksgiving turkey prices at the supermarket are expected to be about 15 percent to 20 percent higher than last year, according to Purdue University agricultural economist Corinne Alexander.

“This price increase is much larger than typical as a result of the avian influenza outbreak that affected turkey flocks earlier this year,” she said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects wholesale prices for whole turkeys in the East will be between $1.31 and $1.37 per pound, compared with $1.14 last year.

The actual retail price that consumers pay will vary. Factors affecting the price include whether the turkey is fresh or frozen; whether it’s organic (meaning the bird is fed a pesticide and antibiotic-free diet); and the value of store coupons and specials.

Grocery stores often price turkey as a “loss leader,” and many will feature turkeys at special prices for frequent shoppers or if they buy larger birds, Alexander said.

Prices for other staples on the holiday table will be easier on the wallet.

Cranberries, white potatoes and sweet potatoes are expected to cost about the same as last year.

Overall, grocery prices have risen 0.8 percent from September 2014 to September this year, Alexander said.