Before Thanksgiving, the Washington Post ran an Opinion piece from book author Chris Leonard which was critical of how turkey is produced in the U.S., claiming more competition would be better for consumers. It was ironic that the Post ran this Op-Ed the same day as an article which said that Americans are paying less for turkey this year. The Post has declined to run a Letter to the Editor we wrote in response, so we have posted it below…
Our nation has much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and our affordable food supply tops the list. That’s why it’s difficult to reconcile an op-ed from book author Chris Leonard that claimed Americans were paying for more turkey thanks to the industry’s structure (“That turkey on your plate could use some more industry competition, November 24, p. B2) with a Post story that ran the same day (“Thanksgiving dinner weights less on wallets this year,” November 24, p. G2) that detailed how Americans are spending less on turkey than they did a year ago.
According to the story citing data from the American Farm Bureau Federation, the average cost of a full turkey dinner for ten will be $49.04 and that is 44 cents less than last year, a decline linked in the Post story to lower turkey prices. Yes, meat and poultry prices have risen in the last few years, but those prices were due to high feed costs directly linked to drought and to ethanol policies that further raise the price of corn.
In fact, the meat and poultry industry’s dynamic and competitive nature has translated into a sustained decline in Americans’ spending on food for decades according to USDA data. Americans spend just 6.7 percent of their disposable income on food at home — far less than any other nation in the world. Rather than bemoan a safe and nutritious food supply that is envied around the world, Leonard could better spend his energy tackling food affordability in many nations around the world, where citizens spend as much half of their disposable income to purchase food at home.
Mark D. Dopp
Senior Vice President
Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel
American Meat Institute