PETALUMA, Calif. - The United Nations food costs tracking index finds that staples from wheat to rice, to corn and vegetable oils rose to a new decade high in October. Nationally, food market analysts predict say turkey prices will exceed the all-time high, $1.36 a pound set six years ago.
If you want a smaller turkey this Thanksgiving, go buy or order it right now. Last year, when big Thanksgiving gatherings were few and far between, farmers, knowing this, raised smaller birds.
This year, with big gatherings returning, big birds are abundant; small birds not so much.
"This year, we're seeing more demand for larger turkeys and multiple birds even, said Brandon Connaughton of Tara Firma Farm in Petaluma, a rare farmer-to-consumer producer of meats, chicken and seasonal turkeys.
"We've seen feed costs go up and that's related to fuel costs going up because a lot of animal feed is still centralized in places like the Central Valley," said Connaughton. Customers are happy to pay a premium here for locally produced, humanely raised, high quality products that pay workers a living wage.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says, since September of last year, overall food prices have increased 4.6%. This presents not only a serious threat to family food budgets, but to inflation pressures as well as growing global hunger problems.
"All the staples stuff, I think, has gone up. I think people are feeling it in their pockets by, probably a family over a hundred dollars a month," said Nadene Carroll, a retired surgical nurse we met in Petaluma.
"I've been eating out a lot and I've been amazed that the restaurants have been holding their prices pretty firm; because when I go in the grocery store, I see prices going up," said Tracy Wheeler
Labor shortages are not the only reason. The rapid rises in the cost of transporting food by land, sea and air, to processors and, ultimately, consumers, is very real.
A worldwide energy shortage has forced many commercial food greenhouse operations to shut off the lights and refrigerators, critical to plant growth and preservation.
Then, there's the skyrocketing costs of fertilizers, essential in raising large scale crop volumes.
Finally, a lot of bad weather around the globe has seriously interfered with the bounties of the harvests themselves. All this on top of the supply chain debacle. "They don't have any control but they also weren't aware that this was gonna happen," said Carroll. "I think it could be really hard being a family on a tight budget," said Wheeler.
In the end, price is an important issue. But, the reality is, Thanksgiving is a rooted in tradition that people intend to have, no matter what the cost.