Consumers will be paying higher prices for their Thanksgiving turkey this fall, according to the US Department of Agriculture, but generally food prices are expected to rise more slowly than they did earlier this year.
At a regional conference on food and farm issues affecting the Midwestern states, a USDA economist predicted that retail food prices are expected to rise 5 percent in 1982, the lowest annual increase since 1976.
Looking ahead to 1983, the USDA forecast calls for food prices to continue to rise at about this year's rate.
Although there will be higher prices for some food products, the USDA economist predicted that food costs generally will increase at a level less than the general inflation rate.
Timothy M. Hammonds, Food Marketing Institute senior vice-president, said: ''Farm costs are a significant determinant of retail food prices, but food-handling costs are just as important.'' Mr. Hammonds said that for approximately each dollar spent in 1981, approximately 31 cents went to the farmer and about 69 cents went to cover such handling costs as labor, packaging materials, transportation, energy, rent, and taxes.
Concerning the traditional holiday foods, Denis F. Dunham, a USDA economist said turkey prices will rise this fall, because there was a cutback in production in response to an oversupply of turkeys in the first half of the year.
Mr. Dunham said prices for turkey are expected to average 10 to 15 percent above last year's very low prices.
Egg prices will also rise appreciably, due to a cut in supplies and a normal increase in demand during the holidays. However, the USDA official said larger supplies of apples, potatoes, and most processed foods will limit food price increases for these products later this year.