Butter makes everything far more delicious, and this year at thanksgiving, it's going to make it more expensive...at least, far more than last year's meal. While prices for a lot of the other traditional parts of the Thanksgiving meal are remaining in check, prices for butter and margarine are nearly 16 percent higher than they were at this time last year, according to a new report from Wells Fargo Advisors.
That's a bummer. After all, what are mashed potatoes — even if they are two percent cheaper than last year — without butter? One big reason butter prices are spiking has been the growing international demand for it, particularly from emerging markets, where incomes are going up.
Still, there are a few reasons to be thankful about the price of your meal. Depending on your tastes, butter likely only makes up a minority of your Thanksgiving meal, after all, and as that above chart clearly shows, many key parts of the meal — especially the turkey — are about the same price as last year or even cheaper. Altogether, Thanksgiving dinner prices are up only around 0.8 percent this year, compared to the 2.2 percent for all other food at home.
So good news — you might actually be doing something good for your wallet by eating Thanksgiving dinner, as opposed to whatever else you might otherwise eat.
But underlying all of this is an even broader trend of cheap food. Take a broader view, and your Thanksgiving meal probably looks phenomenally cheap. At least by one dimension, Americans's spending on food is near record lows. As of 2013, what the Commerce Department calls "food and beverages purchased for off-premises consumption" (so, food we don't buy at restaurants) accounted for around 7 percent of Americans' total disposable income. That's half of where it was in the 1960s and less than one-third of this figure's record, at around 23 percent in 1947.
(And really, if you want even better news, take heart — butter prices are falling again as New Zealand has again started exporting more milk.)