Category Archives: food

Number of Turkeys Produced in U.S. Continues to Fall

An estimated 214 million turkeys were raised on U.S. farms in 2021, down 4.5% from 2020's 224 million. That decline continues an ongoing downward trend that has now lasted for 25 years.

Number of Turkeys Raised on U.S. Farms, 1929-2020 with Estimate for 2021

2021 saw the fewest number of turkeys produced on U.S. farms since 1986. Turkey production had soared during the late 1980s and early 1990s thanks to that era's low-fat diet craze, which saw a sharp increase in demand for lean turkey meat.

On a side note, we now have turkey production data going back to 1929!


U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. Livestock Historic Data. [Online Database: Survey - Animals & Products - Poultry - Turkeys - Production - Turkeys Production Measured in Head - Total - National - US Total - 1929-2021 - Annual - Year]. Accessed 14 November 2021.

2021’s Cost of Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner 14% Higher Than 2020

The cost of providing a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner to 10 people in 2021 is 14% higher than a year ago. The same food that cost $46.90 in 2020 now costs $53.31.

That's according to the results of the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual survey of the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner were released one week before Thanksgiving 2021. In the following chart, we've visualized the Farm Bureau's year-over-year comparison of the costs of the food in their traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner shopping list.

Cost of a Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner, 2020 vs 2021

In the chart, we've ranked the cost of the individual items and groupings used by the Farm Bureau for their traditional turkey dinner menu from high to low according to their 2021 cost as you read from left to right. We've also tallied the cumulative cost of the meal, with the totals for each shown on the far right side of the chart.

Ranking the data this way lets us see that the increase in the cost of turkey is responsible for most of the year-over-year increase. Rising by $4.60 from 2020's $19.39 to 2021's $23.99 for a 16-pound bird, turkey alone accounts for nearly 72% of the year-over-year increase in the total cost for the meal.

Why are turkeys so much more costly in 2021? Here's a partial explanation:

Last Friday, the USDA's Turkey Market News Report showed that smaller 8- to 16-pound frozen turkeys were selling for $1.41 per pound, up from $1.15 the year before, a 22 percent increase. Large frozen turkeys were selling for a couple cents less. Meanwhile, fresh small birds were more expensive — $1.47 per pound — though the year-over-year increase was less, only 15 cents. Exacerbating the issue is that the total number of turkeys for 2021 is also down: six percent lower year-to-date in 2021 than in 2020.

Justin Benavidez, assistant professor of agricultural economics with Texas A&M's AgriLife, told the nearby KRHD News that this decreased production was the primary cause of the price increase. "This is actually one of those rare situations where the pandemic didn't have much to do with the supply and demand of turkey," he was quoted as saying.

But Gregory Martin, a poultry educator with Penn State Extension, didn't entirely agree, instead pointing to larger inflation concerns. "Prices are going to go up simply because of the cost to get the birds in the store," he told Lancaster Farming.

We'll be looking closer at American turkeys all this week!


American Farm Bureau Federation. Farm Bureau: Survey Shows Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Up 14%. [Online Article]. 18 November 2021.

American Farm Bureau Federation. Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Survey: 2021 Year to Year Prices. [PDF Document]. 18 November 2021.

How Many Cows Are There on Earth?

A little over a week ago, President Biden loaded up Air Force One and several other jets with cabinet members, staffers, and quite a few other gas-guzzling vehicles to travel to Glasgow, Scotland for a two-day climate conference aimed at reducing global carbon dioxide emissions. At the conference, Biden made the point of targeting methane emissions, including emissions from livestock, which generally means "cow flatulence".

That brings up the question of how big of a problem is that? Specifically, how many cows are there producing methane emissions on Earth, and of those, how many are in the United States?

We dug up the numbers, which we've presented in the following chart!

World Population of Cattle and Calves, 2021

There are over one billion cattle and calves on Earth. The nation with the largest number of cattle is India, with 305.5 million. Brazil is second with 252.7 million and China is third with 95.6 million. The U.S. ranks fourth in the world, with 93.6 million cattle and calves, as of 1 January 2021.

We then dug out the historic cattle inventory for the United States, which has annual data going back to 1867, and decade census data going back to 1840. Here's a chart showing the historic population of cattle and calves in the U.S. over that time.

Cattle Population in United States, 1840-2021

The population of cattle and calves in the U.S. peaked at 132 million in 1975. Since then, the population has decreased by 29% to reach 2021's surveyed population of 93.6 million. The U.S. accounts for 9.3% of the world's population of cattle.


Cook, Rob. World Cattle Inventory by Country. Beef Market Central. [Online Article]. 5 November 2021.

U.S. Census Bureau. United States Census of Agriculture: 1954. Volume 2. Part 6. Table 1. Cattle - Number Shown by the Census on Specified dates of Enumeration in Relation to Cyclical Changes Indicated by Annual Estimates of January 1 Inventories by Agricultural Marketing Service, for the United States. [PDF Document]. 6 February 1954.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service. Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade. Cattle Stocks - Top Countries Summary. [PDF Document]. 12 October 2021.

U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. Livestock Historic Data. [Online Database: Survey - Animals & Products - Livestock - Cattle - Inventory - Cattle, Incl Calves - Inventory - Total - National - US Total - 1867-2021 - Point in Time - First of Jan.]. Accessed 9 November 2021.

The Average Cost of Food at Home for American Households

How does your household compare to the average American household when it comes to spending for food at home?

Answering questions like that takes data, and for that, the Consumer Expenditure Survey has detailed the average amount of money spent by American household "consumer units" in each year from 1984 through 2020. In the following chart, we've extracted the survey's data for expenditures by food category, showing the data for each year to show the trends for each.

Average Annual Expenditures for Food at Home by Major Food Categories, 1984-2020

In 2020, the average total amount of food-at-home expenditures for American households was $4,942. Here's how that breaks down into major food categories:

  • Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs: $1,075
  • Fruits and vegetables: $977
  • Miscellaneous foods: $973
  • Cereals and bakery products: $640
  • Dairy products: $474
  • Nonalcoholic beverages: $455
  • Other food at home: $348

This list brings up a good question: what's the difference between "Miscellaneous foods" and "Other food at home". Here's how the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines both of them (we've added the additional examples in parentheses):

Miscellaneous foods includes frozen prepared meals and other foods; canned and packaged soups; potato chips, nuts and other snacks; condiments and seasonings, such as olives, pickles, relishes, sauces and gravies, baking needs and other specified condiments; and other canned and packaged prepared foods, such as salads, desserts, baby foods, and vitamin supplements. Other food at home primarily represents sugar and other sweets (such as sugar, candy and chewing gum; artificial sweeteners; and jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butters, syrup, fudge mixes, icings, and other sweets), and also fats and oils (including margarine, shortening, and salad dressings, vegetable oils, nondairy cream substitutes and imitation milk, and peanut butter).

Since food prices have been rising, you can use these average 2020 expenditures to benchmark how much more money you're having to spend on these items in 2021.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Expenditure Survey. Multiyear Tables. [PDF Documents: 1984-1991, 1992-1999, 2000-2005, 2006-2012, 2013-2020]. Accessed 9 September 2021. 

Upward Price Pressure at the Start of Soup Season

On 6 October 2021, we took snapshots of the sale prices of the iconic 10.75 oz can of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup at several major grocers around the United States. Shoppers are seeing upward price pressure in the first week of soup season in the U.S.

That pressure is most visible at Amazon, which we've presented in the following screen shot along with Microsoft Edge's records of its recent price history at the online retailer:

Amazon: Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup (10.75 oz) on 6 October 2021

Here's a summary of prices at other retailers, ranked from high to low:

If you happen to live near one of the 248 Meijer grocery stores in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, or Ohio, you should move quickly this week to take advantage of the chain's sale on Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup, where they've discounted the price from the $1.09 we indicated above to just $0.79 per can from Sunday, 10 October 2021 through Saturday, 16 October 2021.

You should also know it's not just Campbell Soup's prices that are seeing upward price pressure. Consumer prices for food products will be rising across many producers, including ConAgra, Kraft Heinz, and PepsiCo, to name just three major food producers in the U.S. who have announced more price hikes are coming for their products in since the start of October 2021.

Update: As of this morning, Amazon has dropped their price of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup to $0.95 per can. Amazing what a little visibility can do! But really, the question is how long will that price last?