Michigan farmers grow the feast

If you’re waiting until the last minute to shop for Thanksgiving dinner, we understand. It does seem that the holiday has arrived especially early this year. Nov. 22 is the earliest date the holiday can fall on, after all; next year’s holiday is Nov. 28.

This year’s Nov. 22 Thanksgiving also means extra shopping days for Christmas gifts, but first things first.

The good news: Thursday’s dinner, with all the fixings, will be at a lower cost than last years. And just about everything at your holiday feast comes from Michigan farmers.

According to the 33rd annual report of the Michigan Farm Bureau — it actually sends shoppers to the grocery store to check prices on everything from turkey to potatoes — the average cost for this year’s family feast is $48.90, a 22 cent drop from 2017. It is the third year prices have fallen.
A large part of that price drop can be attributed to the star of the show. Turkey prices this November are down about 4 cents a pound, which adds up to about 70 cents less for a 16-pound turkey, enough to feed a crowd of 10 family and friends.

Michigan is the 15th largest producer of turkeys in the nation, with farmers sending 5.3 million birds to market year-round. Those millions of birds are worth about $100 million to the Michigan economy, which is almost as sweet as that first juicy slice of breast meat. While the Blue Water Area used to grow a lot of turkeys, 70 percent of Michigan turkeys are now raised in Ottawa County, about 200 miles west of here.

The Thumb is an important dairy farming area, though, and know that if you’ll be enjoying a cold glass of milk with dinner or butter on your rolls, prices of those commodities are also down this year. That is also the bad news. Farmers can barely afford to keep dairy cattle and the downward spiral of dairy prices isn’t helping.

The economics of the dairy industry is a complicated mess, but you can help while shopping for your Thanksgiving dinner by looking for Michigan-made products. That is especially true for value-added dairy goods, such as cheese or butter or ice cream. Those sorts of things put more money in farmers’ pockets than raw products like whole milk and add to the strength and diversity of Michigan’s economy. It’s why state and regional leaders are working to encourage more value-added agricultural industries to our economy.

The fruits vegetables on your Thanksgiving table will also likely come from Michigan and will be excellent values. Be certain to mash Michigan potatoes; our state is the eighth largest potato producer in the nation. Some tasty trivia for dinner conversation: The world eats Michigan-grown potato chips.
Include a word for Michigan farmers in your Thanksgiving grace.

— TIMES HERALD (PORT HURON)