Strack & Van Til butcher John Kouskousaki hands fresh shrimp to a customer in the store's Schererville location on Friday, Ocotober 15, 2021. (Kyle Telechan for the Post-Tribune) (Kyle Telechan / Post-Tribune)
Strack & Van Til butcher John Kouskousaki hands fresh shrimp to a customer in the store's Schererville location on Friday, Ocotober 15, 2021. (Kyle Telechan for the Post-Tribune) (Kyle Telechan / Post-Tribune)
This year’s Thanksgiving meal is expected to be more expensive, with the possibility of some side dishes missing or substituted, as more families return to the traditional large gathering after last year’s pandemic-induced downsizing.

According to Jayson Lusk, distinguished professor and head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, consumers can probably expect the holiday to be 4% to 5% more expensive this year, with the central part of the meal likely to be higher still.

“At the moment, turkey prices are running about 8% higher than the same time last year,” Lusk said.

Those hosting the feast may want to get an early start on buying some of the ingredients for their homemade dishes, as well as their ready-made ones.

Michael Tyson, chief marketing and merchandising manager at Strack & Van Til grocery stores, said he’s seen companies cut back on some items as they concentrate on their best-selling products.

Other products, like Crisco, are affected by an ongoing lid shortage, Tyson said.

“As of today, we should be fine,” he said, as most orders were made 10 months ago and the frozen turkeys have already been purchased.

But, he added, supply issues could change as the holiday grows closer and trends emerge.

For instance, last year last-minute shoppers were hard-pressed to find canned pumpkin, the key ingredient for homemade pumpkin pies and pumpkin rolls.

“Last year, baking in general was big,” Tyson said.

Tyson said there’s been no problem with produce availability, but Lusk said it will be more expensive. He said fruit and vegetable prices are about 3% higher than this time last year, according to BLS.

“This is higher than we’ve come to expect. In the decade prior to the pandemic, fruit and vegetable prices tended to increase only about 1% per year,” Lusk said.

While supply rates are improving overall over last year, IRI, a company that tracks grocery store scanning data, said bakery items, refrigerated baked goods, refrigerated meals and sports/energy drinks had high out-of-stock rates during the week ending Oct. 3. During that same period, almost 15% of frozen foods, 16% of snacks and 15% of candy were out of stock at stores.

Companies cited labor, commodity and transportation constraints for the shortages.

The same constraints, along with raw material costs and trade with China, are being blamed for higher meat costs overall.

Lusk said some of the most significant price increases this month have been in meat products.

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, beef prices were 18% higher in the last month than they were one year ago. For pork, it was 13% (higher) and chicken 8%. Across all food items (at home and away from home) prices (were) up 4.6% in September 2020 relative to September 2019. This year-over-year increase is as high as we’ve seen in at least a decade,” Lusk said.

In its recent third quarter conference call, Steward Glendinning, executive vice president and CEO of Tyson Foods, said its beef prices rose 12%, chicken prices were up 15% and pork prices increased more than 39%.

Both Lusk and Glendinning cited higher labor and freight costs, as well as increased prices for corn, soy and other grains, which has led to higher feed prices for livestock and poultry products.

“Trade has also played (a) role. China is importing more grain and meat from the U.S., which is contributing to the price rises here at home,” Lusk said.
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