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Give thanks: turkey dinner will cost less this year

Getting the Thanksgiving feast on the table this year will cost consumers a little less, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation's survey.
Getting the Thanksgiving feast on the table this year will cost consumers a little less, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation's survey.Getty Images stock

Finally, some good news for consumers to chew on: That Thanksgiving feast will be a little less expensive.

The average cost of this year's holiday dinner for 10 eased down 0.9 percent to $49.04 from $49.48 last year, according to a survey released Thursday from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The survey's shopping list includes typical Turkey Day fare, including turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

About half of the items became more expensive while the other half fell in price. The biggest decrease this year came from a drop in turkey prices. Prices of rolls and green peas also fell. Meanwhile, sweet potatoes, pumpkin-pie mix and milk made up the biggest increases in this year's basket.

"Most Americans will pay about the same as last year at the grocery store for a turkey and all the trimmings," said John Anderson, AFBF's deputy chief economist, in a news release. "Slightly higher turkey production for much of the year coupled with an increase in birds in cold storage may be responsible for the moderate price decrease our shoppers reported."

Anderson noted that weather did not impact Thanksgiving prices much this year since there was not a widespread drought, unlike ones in 2012 and 2011 that battered various parts of the country.

"Overall, we ended up with a pretty favorable summer and fall harvest season," he said.

Interestingly, the roughly 1 percent drop in the Thanksgiving dinner costs come as food prices in general have risen. For the 12 months that ended in September, prices of food eaten at home rose 1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, this increase is slightly lower than inflation.

"If you just look at retail good prices in general, they've been pretty stable," Anderson said.

The average cost of the dinner has remained about $49 for the past three years after jumping from a bargain price of merely $43 in 2010.

While admittedly only a small drop this Thanksgiving, the news is still welcome for consumers, who are feeling cautious this holiday season as the U.S. labor-force participation rate hovers at the lowest level in more than three decades.

A string of data and surveys have painted a portrait of hesitant Americans this holiday season. Nearly 80 percent of shoppers plan to spend less overall, a recent survey from the National Retail Federation found. The average shopper plans to spend about $737 on holiday items, 2 percent less than the average last year, the trade group found.

Meanwhile, consumer sentiment fell this month to a near two-year low as lower-income households fretted about job prospects and financial outlooks, and consumer confidence fell sharply last month.

"We have a lot of consumers that feel stretched thin so having stable food prices is a positive," Anderson added. "It's an item of family budget that hasn't put pressure on people over the last 12 months."

—By CNBC's Katie Little. Follow her on Twitter @KatieLittle.

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