USDA blames Russia for rising price of Thanksgiving dinner

The Department of Agriculture says Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine is one reason why your Thanksgiving dinner costs more than it did last year.

A USDA memo this month said turkey prices will be higher because of this year’s outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which led to the death of 8 million turkeys in 2022. But USDA also said “Russia’s war on Ukraine and drought across the United States” are other factors that are “pushing up the price of Thanksgiving staples.”

USDA did not respond to questions from Fox News Digital about how Russia’s war against Ukraine is affecting turkey prices. President Biden and his administration have often blamed Russia for the broad increase in inflation and has referred to higher food and energy prices as “Putin’s price hike.”

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President Biden's Agriculture Department blames Russia for higher prices for Thanksgiving staples.

President Biden’s Agriculture Department blames Russia for higher prices for Thanksgiving staples. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Biden administration’s own data, however, shows that inflation began ratcheting up almost immediately after Biden took office in February 2021.

Just before Russia invaded Ukraine in late February 2022, the Biden administration reported that consumer prices were up 7.5% in the year ending in January 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Inflation would rise as high as 9.1% in the year ending June 2022, but sharp increases were seen well before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Ukraine is a major grain exporter, and Russia’s effort to block those exports has led to price spikes. But again, feed grain prices were rising along with the prices of many other commodities before Russia’s invasion.

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Thanksgiving will be more expensive this year, but the Biden administration is downplaying the cost increase.

Thanksgiving will be more expensive this year, but the Biden administration is downplaying the cost increase. (iStock)

USDA’s memo said the Biden administration has made progress fighting higher prices at the grocery store by noting that the 0.4% increase in grocery prices in October was the “smallest increase since December of last year.”

That memo also downplayed the impact that inflation is having on the cost of Thanksgiving dinner compared to non-government estimates. It said the average cost of Thanksgiving retail staples like a fresh turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries and green beans will only cost about 1% more this year compared to last year, and that substituting in a frozen turkey means a 6% increase.

But the American Farm Bureau Federation says the average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner is up 20% compared to last year. The cost of stuffing mix, frozen pie crusts, whipping cream, frozen peas and dinner rolls have all increased by more than 20%, the Farm Bureau said.

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USDA, led by Secretary Tom Vilsack, says Thanksgiving won't be much more expensive this year, despite non-government estimates expect a 20% price increase. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

USDA, led by Secretary Tom Vilsack, says Thanksgiving won’t be much more expensive this year, despite non-government estimates expect a 20% price increase. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images) (Getty)

While those prices may remain high throughout the holiday, turkey prices seen in stores haven’t increased as much. Beth Breeding, vice president of communications and marketing at the National Turkey Federation, said grocery stores typically lower turkey prices closer to Thanksgiving and use turkeys as loss-leaders to bring in customers.

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Still, she said prices seen in actual stores in the days before Thanksgiving are higher than they were last year and rose from about 93 cents a pound to $1 a pound, an increase of about 7%.

Breeding and USDA said that despite this year’s bout of bird flu, there are still plenty of turkeys for people to buy for Thanksgiving. Breeding said about 40 million turkeys will be consumed over the Thanksgiving holiday.

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