Louisiana cooks shopping for Thanksgiving will find the costs of traditional dinner items up this year. The 2012 Thanksgiving market basket will average $44.35 for 10 people, according to an LSU AgCenter survey.

“That’s an increase of $5.16 from last year’s Baton Rouge average of $39.19 – or an increase of 13.2 percent,” said LSU AgCenter family economist Jeanette Tucker.

The Louisiana survey was based on an American Farm Bureau Federation shopping list that includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a group of 10.

The cost of a 16-pound turkey at $18.45, or roughly $1.15 per pound, reflects an increase of 29 cents per pound or a total increase of $4.58 per whole turkey.

"This is the largest contributor to the overall increase in the cost of the 2012 Thanksgiving dinner," Tucker said, adding that the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers show that prices at the farm level for turkey are up about 5 percent in 2012 from 2011.   

“This is likely a function of the much higher grain prices we have seen primarily as a result of the drought in 2012. The higher grain prices have definitely increased the costs of production for raising livestock, and it may be getting reflected in higher animal prices” according to Kurt Guidry, LSU AgCenter agricultural economist.

“While turkey production is expected to be relatively flat in 2012 compared to 2011, these higher prices do not seem to be a function of lower overall production. Per capita consumption of turkey is expected to be up slightly in 2012, which means that with stagnant supplies this slightly higher demand may also be helping to ease prices higher,” said Guidry.

Fuel costs have also risen. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, gasoline and diesel prices in the United States were up by about 3.5 percent in 2012 versus 2011 through the first 10 months of the year.

“This higher energy cost is probably also being reflected in higher commodity prices,” said Guidry.

While this year’s price increase is substantial, Tucker said turkey is still a bargain for the frugal shopper. It’s healthy and delicious and provides lean meat for around $1 per pound. The AgCenter and Farm Bureau surveys both looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.

Past research has shown that four out of five Thanksgiving turkeys are sold on a holiday special.

"This suggests that many consumers will probably purchase Thanksgiving turkeys for less than either survey reports," Tucker said. With projected holiday price decreases, wise shoppers may wish to purchase a second turkey to keep in the freezer for future low-cost meals.