Consumers could see lower prices on holiday hams and turkeys this year, according to Dr. David Anderson, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
Anderson, an AgriLife Extension economist in College Station, Texas, said wholesale prices on typical holiday fare such as whole turkeys and hams are even lower than last year due to consumer preference, higher production and trade issues.
“It’s that time of year again that we’re talking turkeys and hams,” he said. “Prices keep falling. The whole turkey industry has been struggling to find where demand will be and how much to produce. Part of it is that consumers are trying new things like prime rib or hams and briskets. Whole birds are a big part of the industry, and they’re having difficulty gauging demand.”
Anderson said wholesale prices on whole turkeys this year have continued to fall to 80 cents/lb. versus 83 cents/lb. last year. Whole turkeys have continued to decline overall from the five-year average of $1.15/lb. Wholesale ham prices are lower this year as well, at 51 cents/lb., compared to 75 cents/lb. last year and an 80-cent average over the past five years.
Normally, prices peak leading up to Thanksgiving, Anderson said, but prices have been relatively flat for the past 18 months.
Anderson said declining ham prices are likely due to record pork production in 2018. The pork industry also has faced retaliatory tariffs in China and Mexico, which have contributed to higher supplies and the price slide.
“Hams are very competitively priced alongside turkey,” he said. “As grocery retailers set up their strategies to draw consumers into their stores, we may see below-wholesale pricing or very good specials on hams and turkeys.”
Consumers who want to try alternative meats, specifically lamb and beef, will pay premium prices, he said. Wholesale prices on rib-eye steaks, for instance, are $9/lb.
Anderson said there is also a rising trend among U.S. households that order prepared specialty hams and turkeys smoked or cured and shipped to order.
Anderson said the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual price survey of classic Thanksgiving fare – including turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, milk, whipping cream, rolls and other items — revealed that holiday dinner in 2018 would be the most affordable since 2010, at a cost of $48.90, on average, for a family of 10.
“Those lower prices follow much of the trends among agriculture commodities,” he said. “When it comes to turkeys and hams, it might be the year consumers get one of each.”