Farm News & Views for the week of November 20, 2023
With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, it’s not to late to report that the annual American Farm Bureau Federation survey found that the cost of a Thanksgiving meal for ten people is $61.17, or about $6.20 per person, which features a 16 pound turkey costing just over $27. That's down about down 5.6% from last year. The National Farmers Union priced an 11 pound turkey at $21.89, or $1.99 a pound. But at that price, the farmer who raised the bird is getting 66 cents, which is essentially six cents per pound, and on average, it takes 75-80 pounds of feed to raise a 38-pound turkey. However, Thanksgiving turkeys are big business, with about 46 million turkeys consumed every Thanksgiving.
For those who have been procrastinating about getting their Thanksgiving turkey, Successful Farming Magazine contributor Heather Lifsey provides some tips for buying one. She suggests that consumers shouldn’t pay more for turkeys that are advertised as hormone free or cage free. She points out that growers are prohibited from feeding any hormones or steroids to poultry, so the hormone and steroid claims are no different than any other poultry at a store’s meat counter. The cage free come-on is also bogus, because turkeys, with the exception of those that are raised, are grown out in temperature-controlled houses, where they have plenty of room to move, are safe from predators, and are kept cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and dry in bad weather.
Lately, there have been numerous reports about U.S consumers who are concerned about the high cost of groceries. But maybe we don’t have it so bad when compared to other countries in the world. According to recent studies, there are eight countries in the world that spend less than 10% of their household income on food. In the U.S., on average,we spend 6.4% of of our income feeding ourselves, although there are disadvantaged folks who are food insecure. Singapore residents spend 6.7% of their income for food, Canadians 9.1%, Australians 9.8%, and in Europe, residents of the UK, Switzerland, Ireland, and Austria spend less than 10% of their income to feed their families. However, residents of Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, Kazakhstan, Algeria and the Philippines spend almost half of their income for food. In Nigeria, that figure is 56% and in Kenya it is 47%. The USDA found that the average American household spends $2,390 per year on food consumed at home, while the average German household spends $2,646 per year, the he average French household spends over $3,200, and the average Norwegian family spends almost $4,500 on food. The good news is that consumers may find some relief from high grocery prices next year due to lower agricultural commodity costs that should ease the price of sugar, coffee, and food products that use corn and soybeans, due to the higher supplies of these crops. But demand may also remain weak for some high end food products because many consumers are still squeezed by a higher cost-of-living in the U.S.
Last week, the Senate approved a one-year farm bill extension, which agricultural leaders say is necessary to avoid a lapse in critical funding for farmers. Lawmakers voted 87-11 for the bill, which also avoided a partial government shutdown before a Friday deadline. President Biden signed the bill even though he called it “extreme” earlier in the week. The legislation extends funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at current spending levels until January 19th, and extends all agricultural programs at levels provided in the 2018 Farm Bill through September 30, 2024.
While there is no shortage of milk, there is a supply chain problem with half-pint cardboard milk cartons. For example, New York state is home to more than 3,200 dairy farms that produced 15.66 billion pounds of milk in 2022, the milk carton shortages are interfering with suppliers’ ability to provide milk to schools and other customers in New York, California, Pennsylvania, Washington state, and across the country. Milk is required to be served with every meal served at schools, according to USDA nutrition standards.
Ancient Roman statesman Cicero wrote: “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.”