USDA blames Russia for soaring Thanksgiving dinner price

The Agriculture Ministry says Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine is one reason your Thanksgiving dinner is costing more than last year.

A USDA memo this month said turkey prices will be higher because of this year’s outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which killed 8 million turkeys in 2022 in the United States” are other factors affecting “the price of Boost Thanksgiving staples”.

The USDA did not respond to questions from Fox News Digital about how Russia’s war on Ukraine is affecting turkey prices. President Biden and his administration have often blamed Russia for the broad spike in inflation, calling higher food and energy prices “Putin’s price hike.”

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President Biden's Department of Agriculture blames Russia for higher Thanksgiving staple prices.

President Biden’s Department of Agriculture blames Russia for higher Thanksgiving staple prices.
(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

However, the Biden administration’s own data shows that inflation began to rise almost immediately after Biden took office in February 2021.

Just before Russia invaded Ukraine in late February 2022, the Biden administration reported that consumer prices rose 7.5% for the year ended January 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Inflation would rise to as much as 9.1% in the year to June 2022, but a sharp rise was seen well before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Ukraine is a major grain exporter, and Russia’s efforts to block those exports have caused prices to spike. But here, too, feed grain prices rose along with the prices of many other commodities prior to the Russian invasion.

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Thanksgiving will be more expensive this year, but the Biden administration is downplaying the cost hike.

Thanksgiving will be more expensive this year, but the Biden administration is downplaying the cost hike.
(iStock)

The USDA memo said the Biden administration made progress in fighting higher grocery prices by noting that October’s 0.4% rise in grocery prices was the “smallest increase since December last year.”

That memo also downplayed the impact inflation is having on the cost of Thanksgiving dinner compared to non-government estimates. It says the average cost of Thanksgiving retail staples like a fresh turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries and green beans will cost just about 1% more this year than last year, and that replacing it with a frozen turkey represents a 6% increase means.

But the American Farm Bureau Federation says the average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner is up 20% year over year. The cost of stuffing mixes, frozen pie crusts, whipped cream, frozen peas and buns are all up more than 20%, the Farm Bureau said.

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USDA, led by Secretary Tom Vilsack, says Thanksgiving won't be much more expensive this year, although non-government estimates expect prices to rise 20%.  (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

USDA, led by Secretary Tom Vilsack, says Thanksgiving won’t be much more expensive this year, although non-government estimates expect prices to rise 20%. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
(Getty)

While these prices may remain high over the holiday period, turkey prices seen in stores have not risen as much. Beth Breeding, vice president of communications and marketing at the National Turkey Federation, said grocery stores typically lower turkey prices closer to Thanksgiving and use turkeys as a loss-maker to lure customers.

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Still, she said prices in actual stores in the days leading up to Thanksgiving were higher than last year, rising from about 93 cents a pound to $1 a pound, an increase of about 7%.

Breeding and USDA said that despite this year’s bird flu, there are still plenty of turkeys for people to buy for Thanksgiving. Breeding said about 40 million turkeys are eaten during the Thanksgiving holiday.

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