It is almost time for Thanksgiving, the holiday when many people in the USA cook and eat turkey. As I was walking up and down the aisles of the supermarket yesterday, buying food for the holiday, I was wondering what has happened to the price of turkeys over time.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been tracking the retail sticker price of whole frozen turkeys each month since 1980 as part of its efforts to understand inflation. Graphing the retail or sticker price per pound, shown below, reveals a steady pattern from 1980 to about 2008, with periodic downward blips that correspond to price cuts around the holidays.
However, looking at the sticker price provides misleading information because overall prices today are much higher than 35 years ago. The typical item that cost $1 in 1980, would cost about $2.89 in 2015 (see here for the calculation).
The next graph adjusts the per pound price of turkeys for inflation and shows a very different pattern. The price per pound was highest in 1980 and then steadily fell until 2008. The current price of about $1.50 is not that far away from the lowest prices recorded in the last 35 years.
A low inflation adjusted price means that turkey is relatively cheap to buy today. I guess this is just one more reason to give thanks this Thanksgiving.