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Kroger holds off passing turkey costs onto consumers, outlook for prices through new year


(NEW YORK) — Americans may be feeling the pinch at grocery store checkouts, but the largest chain in the country has shared some positive news ahead of the holiday season.

“Our turkey costs are up about 20%, but we decided early on to not pass that cost increase through to try to help somebody stretch their budget,” Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen told Good Morning America.

The announcement comes at a crucial time for last-minute Thanksgiving shoppers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its latest National Retail Report on turkey that there is currently “a wide variant in prices throughout most regions” but that “fresh and frozen weighted average whole turkey prices increase when compared to the previous ad cycle.”

“However, many lucrative values abound for both fresh and frozen turkeys helping to lure the customer through [grocery store] doors,” the agency noted.

With inflation impacting grocery bills for many people, some have turned to other Thanksgiving main dishes, including roasted chicken, to save a few dollars. But while McMullen said the price of “chicken and some of those items” was “starting to come down,” the latest USDA Agricultural Marketing Service report shows that, overall, whole chicken prices “are trending at least steady for all sizes.”

The best deal for a non-turkey poultry option, according to the USDA National Retail Report on chicken, are bulk packs of thighs and drums.

McMullen noted that other meats like beef and pork were still affected by high price tags. “Beef is still inflationary, pork is still a little bit inflationary,” he said.

He added, however, that “some of the produce items are starting to come down just a little bit.”

With inflation currently at 7.7%, prices on goods have continually crept upward in the food category, which rose 10.9% overall in the last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index report. Food at home costs, meanwhile, have risen 12.4% since last year.

“The biggest thing we’re seeing is people continue to eat and cook at home. One of the things during COVID, people learned to cook at home and they found they enjoy it, they love eating as a family,” McMullen said. “It also helps stretch the budget because it’s significantly cheaper for somebody to cook a meal at home versus going out to a restaurant.”

When looking for savings opportunities at Kroger, McMullen encouraged people to shop the grocery chain’s “private label” products which are generic store-brand offshoots of mainstream consumer packaged goods.

As for the end-of-year outlook, McMullen added, “Our hope and expectation, as we get early into next year, is that we’ll see [inflation] continue to decrease a little bit.”

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