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Thanksgiving prices expected to jump in 2021

After a dip last year, demand is skyrocketing for normal gatherings this Thanksgiving – and prices are going up.

ST PETER, Minn. — Thanksgiving had a weird feel at St. Peter Food Co-Op last year, as most people shopped only for their own households.

"Yeah, it was interesting last year," general manager Erik Larson said. "We sold a lot more small turkeys."

This year, with widespread vaccine access, the equation has changed.

"We've seen more big turkeys reserved," Larson said. "Which, I guess, is our only indicator that there will probably be more normal gatherings."

But, if you're the one doing the hosting, prepare yourself: Thanksgiving feasts are going to cost more. 

With many Americans already looking ahead to the holiday, The New York Times published a widely-shared article earlier this week, proclaiming that "Thanksgiving 2021 could be the most expensive meal in the history of the holiday." Citing economists and experts, the Times report detailed how several complex factors – related to the pandemic and inflation – are driving up food prices across the board ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Indeed, the American Farm Bureau Federation reported this month that food prices have increased 3.7% in 2021.

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And, here at home, Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap cited statistics showing you can expect Thanksgiving turkey prices to increase anywhere from 4 to 5%.

"Having food affordability... certainly, COVID has thrown some monkey wrenches into supply and demand," Paap said. "Labor shortage. Increased labor costs. Increased transportation costs. Just concerns with supply chain disruptions."

However, as the nation's economy recovers from the worst of the pandemic, inflation is occurring and prices are going up everywhere. 

That, Paap said, should not be overlooked.

"It's not just agricultural prices. We're all seeing prices, whether it's at the gas pump or anything else. Certainly, that inflation has an impact, whether it's input costs for what we feed our animals for food, or what we use for nutrients," Paap said. "I know we're hearing a lot about, 'this is going to be the most expensive Thanksgiving.' Well, in times of inflation, typically food -- or anything -- is more expensive this year than it was a year ago."

Back in St. Peter, the co-op general manager Erik Larson acknowledged he's seen an increase in prices, "but not too much."

For him, ahead of the holiday season, staffing remains the biggest challenge.

"There still is a lot of demand for our products," Larson said. "So, just trying to keep up with that demand (with) what the labor situation is giving us."

RELATED: Unhappy with prices, ranchers look to build own meat plants

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