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Thanksgiving dinner: Why is it more expensive?

The cost of a Thanksgiving turkey is up $3.91 cents over last year. Overall, a Thanksgiving dinner is up 13 percent since last Thanksgiving.

By Remy MelinaLiveScience staff / November 23, 2011

Lash Corbett says good-bye to his friend and future Thanksgiving dinner, Tom the Turkey., at Liberty Christian School in Walla Walla, Wash.

(AP Photo/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Jeff Horner)

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Faced with rising food prices, shoppers may feel the pinch as they pick up their holiday staples at the supermarket. The cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, including all the basic trimmings, has increased by about 13 percent since last year, according to an annual price survey.

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The average cost of this year's Thanksgiving meal for 10 people is $49.20, which is a $5.73 price increase from the average of $43.47 in 2010, according to an American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) annual informal survey.

For the survey, AFBF researchers asked 141 volunteer  shoppers from 35 U.S. states to look for the best possible prices when shopping for items from a set menu, which has remained unchanged since 1986. To accurately gauge price trends around the nation, researchers asked the shoppers to refrain from using special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 at a store and receiving a free turkey.

The survey's "classic dinner" consists of a 16-pound turkey (which showed a $3.91 price increase from 2010), pumpkin pie mix (41-cent increase), pie shells (-cent increase), whipped cream (26-cent increase), stuffing (24-cent increase), package of rolls (18-cent increase), sweet potatoes (7-cent increase), cranberries (7-cent increase), green peas (24-cent increase) and a gallon of milk (42-cent increase).

Turkey — that Thanksgiving necessity — was the priciest item on the menu, coming in at $21.57 this year, compared with $17.66 in 2010. That's an increase of about 25 cents per pound, making the bird the biggest contributor to the final cost of the meal and the one item on the menu to experience the largest price increase in 2011.

"Turkey prices are higher this year primarily due to strong consumer demand both here in the U.S. and globally," John Anderson, an AFBF senior economist, said in a statement. [Infographic: Rising Thanksgiving Costs]

The only two items to show a price dip: A 1-pound relish tray of carrots and celery dropped by 1 cent, while a group of "miscellaneous ingredients" necessary to prepare the meal, including eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter, decreased by 12 cents.

"Although we'll pay a bit more this year, on a per-person basis, our traditional Thanksgiving feast remains a better value than most fast-food value meals, plus it's a wholesome, home-cooked meal," Anderson said.

You can follow LiveScience writer Remy Melina on Twitter @remymelina. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience  and on Facebook.

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