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Turkey or Tofurkey? : A protein price comparison for the Thanksgiving meal

Summary:
This is the time of the year to give thanks, and the FRED Blog is thankful for the rich variety of data series and data sources available in FRED. In years past, we’ve tapped data from the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Eurostat to assemble tasty graphs showing the price of traditional Thanksgiving meals. Today, we compare a poultry-based meal with a plant-based meal. Let’s start with a data literacy appetizer. The FRED graph above plots the quarterly global prices of poultry (including turkey) in orange and soybeans (the main ingredient in tofu) in green, as reported by the International Monetary Fund. Savor the fact that the units of each series are different: poultry prices are reported in U.S. cents per pound of meat (on the left axis), and

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This is the time of the year to give thanks, and the FRED Blog is thankful for the rich variety of data series and data sources available in FRED. In years past, we’ve tapped data from the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Eurostat to assemble tasty graphs showing the price of traditional Thanksgiving meals. Today, we compare a poultry-based meal with a plant-based meal.

Let’s start with a data literacy appetizer. The FRED graph above plots the quarterly global prices of poultry (including turkey) in orange and soybeans (the main ingredient in tofu) in green, as reported by the International Monetary Fund. Savor the fact that the units of each series are different: poultry prices are reported in U.S. cents per pound of meat (on the left axis), and soybean prices are reported in U.S. dollars per metric ton (on the right axis).

Also, notice how relatively stable the prices of both commodities are from quarter to quarter. Even though the data are not seasonally adjusted, the prices do not regularly increase or decrease during a calendar year. We can thank the global supply of both commodities for the lack of seasonality in prices.

Now for the main course: turkey (i.e., poultry) or tofurkey (i.e., soybeans)? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, roasted turkey has almost 3 times the caloric value and 1.5 times the protein value of an equivalent serving of fried tofu by weight. Between 1990 and the time of this writing, the average global price of poultry has been 6 times higher than the price of soybeans.

As of the third quarter of 2021, a hearty Thanksgiving dinner serving of turkey costs $1.42. A tofurkey (soybean) dinner serving with the same amount of calories costs $0.66 and provides almost twice as much protein. Keep in mind that this plant-based meal would be almost 3 times larger by weight than the poultry-based meal and may either keep you at the dinner table longer or provide you with more leftovers. Of course, our calculations here don’t include the time value, energy costs, and additional ingredients required to cook the meals.

How these graphs were created:
Global prices (the graph shown here). Search for and select “Global price of Poultry.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to search for and select “Global price of Soybeans.” To change the line color, mark types, and Y-axis position of the series, use the “Format” panel.
Relative prices (the first linked graph). Search for and select “Global price of Poultry.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Edit Line 1” tab to customize the data by searching for and selecting “Global price of Soybeans.” Last, create a custom formula to combine the series to make them comparable pound for pound and dollar for dollar by typing in (a/100)/(b/2204.62) and clicking “Apply.”
Cost of caloric-equivalent meal (the second linked graph). Search for and select “Global price of Poultry.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Edit Line” tab to customize the data by applying the formula a/100. Next, from the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to search for and select “Global price of Soybeans.” Next, use the “Edit Line 2” tab to customize the data by applying the formula (a/2204.62)*2.93. Salt and flavor the graphs to taste by using the “Format” panel.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

About FRED Blog
FRED Blog
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is the center of the Eighth District of the Federal Reserve System. This District includes Arkansas, eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and Indiana, western Kentucky and Tennessee, and northern Mississippi.

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