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Your Thanksgiving dinner could be the most expensive ever thanks to a perfect storm of crises

Prices are going up, companies are grappling with worker shortages and labor strikes, and of course there’s still the ongoing pandemic.

Your Thanksgiving dinner could be the most expensive ever thanks to a perfect storm of crises
[Source Images: Bettmann/Contributor/Getty; others public domain]

One thing nobody will be thankful for when they’re sitting around the table this Thanksgiving are the food prices.

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Most of the data available right now points to prices reaching historic highs for 2021, thanks to a perfect storm of crises—basically an ongoing pandemic, plus the worsening effects of climate change, plus labor problems caused by things like America’s Great Resignation and workers going on strike, plus inflation climbing at its fastest pace in 30 years. The result is prices leaping to what could be never-before-seen levels.

So far for 2021, food prices are up 3.7%, according to the American Farm Bureau, compared to a 20-year average of about 2.4%. Major food companies like Procter & Gamble, Danone, and Nestlé are already warning customers to expect sticker shock.

Some consumers may do a double-take, recalling that last year’s Thanksgiving prices were at near-record lows. That’s because 2020 was an anomaly. It was at the height of the pandemic. Families were gathering via Zoom, not stocking up on 30-pound turkeys, bags of yams, and pie crusts for feasts, and grocery stores were offering cut-rate deals as a result.

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But it’s a brand-new year with brand-new business hazards.

Turkey is more expensive because corn is more expensive. Turkeys eat corn, and corn’s price in the past year has more than doubled, leading to consumers paying about 25 cents more per pound, according to the latest data from the USDA. Because of supply problems, there will also be fewer birds available for sale to begin with—and demand is no friend of price. (“Smaller frozen turkeys could be harder to find in stores this November,” Butterball has warned.)

You’ll pay more for a convenient bag of dinner rolls that just needs heating up, because almost all baking ingredients have jumped in price. Canned vegetables will cost more because we’re also in the midst of a pandemic steel shortage that’s pushed up steel prices by more than 300%.

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Wine has gotten more expensive, too—which you can chalk up to labor shortages in ports, severe frosts in France and Italy, wildfires and droughts in California and Oregon, and an uptick in demand from U.S. restaurants that, now that they’ve finally reopened, are buying wine by the caseful again.

Extreme weather is also to blame. Droughts and hurricanes have crippled the U.S.’s sugar and citrus supplies, and coffee prices are rising because Brazil, the world’s top supplier, has confronted both drought and unexpected frost.

And it’s not just the food that’s going to hurt pocketbooks this Thanksgiving, either. Gas prices are the highest they’ve been since 2014, having climbed an average of $1.22 a gallon in the past year, with 20 cents of that occurring in the past month.

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