The cost of a turkey dinner is down slightly this year, but the news isn't so good for people planning those post-Thanksgiving holiday gatherings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the wholesale cost of chicken is now at an all-time high of $1.54 per pound. The news comes at a time of year when food prices are a major consideration for many households. "Some turn to chicken for Thanksgiving," says Tom Super with the National Chicken Council. But he isn't just talking about the turkey-duck-chicken hybrid “Turducken.” "I think in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when a lot of folks have family over on a cold Sunday, they're cooking those whole birds with the vegetables and potatoes more and more," says Super.
The American Farm Bureau has cited increased federal regulation of chicken farmers as a main reason for the rise in prices. That includes EPA regulations enacted in the last decade requiring farmers to better manage manure in order to protect the water supply. But Super says there's an even bigger reason. "A lot of the rise in costs that we're seeing for chicken is a direct result of the corn that's being blended into our gasoline," he tells KTRH. "The federal government currently mandates that 40% of our corn crop be blended into our gas tanks in the form of ethanol." Since corn is the main feed source for chicken producers, that reduction in the corn crop leads to higher feed prices.
The wholesale price of chicken has risen 51% in the past decade, but Super points out that it has stabilized. "The price is only up one penny per pound in the last year," he says. Still, the upward trend is unlikely to change as long as the current federal fuel standards remain in effect. "With four of every ten rows of our corn crop going into our gas tanks, that puts tremendous pressure on the price of corn, and also on the price of chicken," says Super.