Most Consumers Expect Thanksgiving Turkeys to Cost More. Here’s How They Plan to Save

Food & beverage analyst Emily Moquin unpacks how consumers will manage high grocery prices this Thanksgiving
Image of a Thanksgiving turkey
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Ashley Berry
November 07, 2022 at 5:00 am UTC

There’s no hiding from grocery inflation this Thanksgiving, but expensive turkeys won’t force celebrators to skip out. Companies should prepare for resourceful shoppers who are more open to switching stores, products and brands to ensure the traditional elements of the holiday feast are at their table.

Thanksgiving hosts will have some tough choices to make this holiday. Due to the convergence of inflation and avian flu, which is exacerbating poultry supply issues, most consumers expect higher turkey prices this year — nearly three-quarters of those buying a turkey expect it to cost more than last year.

Share of respondents purchasing a turkey who expect it to cost more, the same or less than last year
Chart of expectations for the cost of a Thanksgiving turkey this year, showing almost three-quarters of respondents expect turkeys to cost more.
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Survey conducted Oct. 22-23, 2022, among 1,579 U.S. adults who said they’re planning to buy a turkey this year, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

The solution for most isn’t a turkey-less Thanksgiving. Instead, consumers will find ways to save on the turkey itself by purchasing early and shopping sales. Shoppers also plan to make more room in their budgets by cutting costs on side dishes and, in some cases, reducing regular grocery spending to reallocate funds to the November holiday. 

Even amid steep prices, nearly 9 in 10 Thanksgiving hosts plan to serve turkey

Despite the higher anticipated cost of turkey, most hosts (87%) still plan to serve it at their celebrations. This stands in contrast to general consumer money-saving trends. Amid decades-high grocery inflation, many shoppers say buying less meat is one way they are saving, but Thanksgiving’s main dish is not the place for compromise. 

In fact, so strong is the pull of Thanksgiving turkey, even 41% of those who say they follow a vegetarian, pescatarian or vegan diet said they will eat turkey on Thanksgiving. The turkey is nonnegotiable, so consumers will be looking for other ways to save. 

Below are three of the most common savings tactics people will employ this year.

1. Consumers plan to purchase their turkey early

In hopes of nabbing the best deal and skirting supply issues, consumers are aiming to purchase turkeys earlier this year. Only 11% plan to get their turkey the week of Thanksgiving, whereas in 2021, 29% of hosts said they planned to get the turkey no more than a few days before the holiday. In contrast, half of hosts this year intend to get their turkey between late October and early November.

There are practical reasons for purchasing a turkey early. As many Thanksgiving cooks know, it takes time to thaw a frozen turkey, and some may want to leave extra time for prep, like wet or dry brining. But purchasing the turkey early has other benefits as well — namely, finding the bird with the right specifications at the right price. Nearly 3 in 10 (29%) of those buying a turkey for Thanksgiving said they anticipate having a hard time finding the turkey they want this year. Early shoppers will be able to plan around sales and spread out the overall costs of their holiday meal. Plus, those in the market for a specific, perhaps smaller, turkey will have more options if they shop early. 

Another reason for shopping sooner is to help ease worries of ending up with no turkey at all. The issue of avian flu is a contributing factor behind this concern. But most U.S. adults have not heard much, if anything at all, about it: Only 23% of those planning to purchase a turkey said they’d heard at least some about the impact of avian flu on turkey supply. 

2. Finding a turkey on sale is important to many

In anticipation of higher prices, nearly 3 in 4 of those purchasing a turkey plan to buy one on sale. This share is similar across income levels and generations — everybody wants to save. The good news for retailers is that enticing shoppers with an appealing sale on turkeys could help score carts full of other feast fixings.

Aside from finding discounts, some shoppers will opt for a smaller turkey to save money. But one thing most consumers won’t give up, even if it would help reduce costs, is buying an entire bird. A majority (59%) said they are not considering purchasing a part of a turkey in lieu of the whole bird. The entire turkey as a Thanksgiving centerpiece is too important a tradition for many to break.

Share of respondents purchasing a turkey who said they anticipate buying any of the following less expensive options:
Chart of how respondents purchasing a turkey who said they anticipate buying any of the following less expensive turkey options, showing that three-quarters are looking for a turkey on sale.
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"Don't know/No opinion" responses not shown.
Survey conducted Oct. 22-23, 2022, among 1,579 U.S. adults who said they’re planning to buy a turkey this year, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

3. Saving on the fixings will help Americans accommodate higher prices overall

When it comes to consumers’ overall grocery shopping approach this Thanksgiving, deals and discounts are the name of the game. A large share across generations will be looking for deals and even seeking out stores with the lowest prices, potentially indicating an opportunity for retailers to win over shoppers.

Millennial hosts in particular are feeling the financial pressure of hosting duties. They are more likely than older generations to say they’ll be employing a variety of savings tactics, like serving smaller quantities or serving fewer dishes. Around 3 in 5 millennial hosts say they’ll shift shopping habits throughout the month to allocate more money toward Thanksgiving.

Share of respondents who plan to do the following when grocery shopping this Thanksgiving:
Bar chart of savings tactics that different hosts plan to use this year, showing millennial hosts are more likely than older generations to say they'll be employing a variety of savings tactics.
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Survey conducted Oct. 22–23, 2022, among 759 U.S. adults who said they’re planning to host Thanksgiving this year, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.

Offering ideas in addition to coupons will help attract more consumers 

Consumers are ready to give thanks with family and friends this year, even if doing so takes some extra finessing of their budgets. Retailers and food and beverage brands can help consumers get the most for every dollar spent with sales and coupons, ideas for inexpensive sides or even suggestions for how to stretch leftovers. Brands consumers view as helpful this holiday season stand to earn trust and a place on the Thanksgiving table for years to come.

Emily Moquin previously worked at Morning Consult as a lead food & beverage analyst.


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