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November 18, 2003   Email to Friend 

THANKSGIVING MEAL TO COST MORE
Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
November 18, 2003

MONTGOMERY, Ala. Soaring food prices will push the cost of Thanksgiving dinner higher this year, despite savings on turkeys. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, five of eight traditional holiday foods will cost more than in 2002, while the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was up 5 percent from a month ago.

The survey, which was conducted Nov. 1-9, showed Thanksgiving turkeys averaged 97 cents a pound, down 2 cents from a year ago. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said reduced exports to Hong Kong and other countries contributed to the decrease but warned that prices would likely rebound later in the year. Meanwhile, another traditional centerpiece of the holiday feast was more expensive as whole hams weighed in at $1.46 a pound, up 19 cents from last year. Packaged stuffing mix also was higher at $2.83 a pound, up 22 cents, while cranberry sauce was slightly cheaper at 96 cents a can, down 4 cents.

On the produce aisle, a five-pound bag of oranges was up 29 cents to $3.70, and apples were 2 cents more expensive at $1.07 a pound. Sweet potatoes also were higher at 74 cents a pound, up 7 cents, but pecans remained a good buy at $5.31 a pound, down 29 cents.

Month-to-month food price comparisons showed the cost of 20 basic market basket items averaged $42.01 in November, up $1.96 from October and up $3.94 from a year ago.

Record-high beef prices continued to account for much of the increase with T-bone steaks averaging $8 a pound, up 79 cents from October. Ground beef was up 39 cents a pound to $1.99, and chuck roasts averaged $3.13 a pound, up 37 cents. Pork prices were mixed with pork chops selling for $2.89 a pound, down 29 cents, while bacon averaged $2.96 a pound, up 11 cents. Boston butts also were higher at $1.51 a pound, up 21 cents.

Shoppers could still find bargains in the meat case, however, as whole fryers dropped 3 cents to 91 cents a pound, and chicken breasts held steady at $1.77 a pound, down a penny. Egg prices increased for the fourth straight month to $1.24 a dozen, up 9 cents.

In the dairy case, a half-gallon of milk was up 3 cents in November to $1.90, while a half-gallon of ice cream was up 18 cents to $3.15. The one bright spot for holiday bakers was butter, which dropped 9 cents this month to $2.39 a pound. Lettuce also was 4 cents cheaper at $1.04 a head, and tomatoes were down 6 cents to $1.41 a pound.

Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers across the state showed the market basket averaged $39.86 in northwest Alabama, $41.63 in the central counties, $42.25 in the northeast corner of the state and $44.64 in south Alabama.


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