A real Thanksgiving
By Trent Loos
It has been an annual tradition since 1986 that the American Farm Bureau Federation calculates the cost of Thanksgiving dinner for a family of 10. This meal includes the standard fare of turkey and stuffing, sweet potatoes, peas, carrots and celery, dinner rolls, milk and pumpkin pie with whipped topping. Amazingly, the cost of that meal has inched up only 28 cents since last year from $49.20 to $49.48. The only component that was actually more expensive was the turkey, thanks in part to the drought and high grain prices in the Midwest. The cost of this meal was $34.56 a decade ago and only $26.39 in 1992. The farmer's share of that food dollar has dropped from 33 percent in the mid-70s to just 16 percent today.
What does that really mean for Americans? If you really think about it, it means that for under $5 you could have a full-blown family meal for each member of your family. That is less than what you would pay for a burger combo at your local fast-food drive-through. I don't know many family chefs that would want to deal with the preparation and clean-up of a feast like this on a daily basis but what is truly the best part of the Thanksgiving meal? As much as I love pumpkin pie and my mom's stuffing, that is not what I look forward to most on this holiday. What I really love is sitting down with our whole family, parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins and in-laws, sharing what we are thankful for, eating a wonderful meal and enjoying each other's company. Perhaps followed by a good game of cards.
Our Facebook community has taken the "thankfulness" concept and applied it to everyone's status. On the third of November it finally hit me that people were posting things they were thankful for on each day of the month. It is an interesting idea and also fun to see where people's priorities lie in terms of the order of their list. It's always good to stop and think about what we are thankful for and I'm sure in our crazy, busy world we don't do it nearly enough. Families, of course, were very high on most of our thankful lists.
So how could this Thanksgiving concept be carried throughout the year? If the cost of our food hasn't risen much since last year, that is certainly something we can and should be thankful for year-round. In addition to cost, consumers express a desire for safe food and U.S. farmers and ranchers have delivered that as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a significant decrease in the number of foodborne illnesses confirmed in the country since 1996. This is again something to be thankful for. We now have an abundant supply of safe, healthy food that people can afford.
Consumers need to appreciate and take advantage of this wonderful food supply, buy the groceries and take them home and prepare them as a family so they can eat them as a family and enjoy that bond that helped to build this country. Despite the fact that our calendars are always packed with activities, research has clearly shown that families that eat dinner together have kids that are more successful. Kids who eat dinner with their family have better grades, less mental disorders and are more likely to share their concerns and joys with their parents. Teens are less likely to engage in risky behaviors if they share regular family dinners. Portion size, food choices and meal costs are also controlled when families eat together at home.
If "family" is what most of us are most thankful for, isn't it time we focus our time and efforts on that family by sharing one of the most routine but truly blessed activities we can with them--the breaking of bread? I believe many rural families already do this but perhaps our message to our city cousins needs to be that we have provided them with safe, low-cost foods and it is now their responsibility to take advantage of that for the benefit of their own family. Lead by example is what we should do and continue to be thankful for the abundant bounties we have received and our ability to take great care of all of them. Happy Thanksgiving!
Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.