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No food inflation here

Former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin might have avoided some ill-informed comments recently about food price inflation had she been shopping at the store Target opened in her home town of Wasilla, Alaska two years ago.

“Everyone who ever goes out shopping for groceries knows that prices have risen significantly over the past year or so,” Palin said during a speech in which she was critical of Federal Reserve chairman Ben Benanke’s fiscal policies and their impact on inflation. The pricing comments quickly drew criticism because they weren’t factual, a point driven home by prices in this week’s circular from Target. Prices featured on Thanksgiving staples in this week’s circular with the theme, “low prices for holiday hosting” are nearly identical to last year’s circular, which had as its theme, “hot deals are served.”

 

Butterball brand and Market Pantry brand turkeys are offered at 88 cents a pound and 68 cents a pound, respectively, the same as last year. Also unchanged from a year ago were a 12 pound cook-in-bag Archer Farms turkey for $19.99, an eight-inch pumpkin pie for $3.99, Heinz HomeStyle Gravy, Better Crocker Au Gratin potatoes and Kraft Stove Top Stuffing for 79 cents, a 14-ounce can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce for 95 cents and Del Monte green beans for 45 cents.

Target also kept the price of its complete holiday meal (12-pound turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, relish, rolls, pie and coffee sample) at the same price of $59.99. An 18-quart Oster brand roaster oven offered at $27 was the same price as the prior year when the Rival brand was featured. The company even featured the same $15 gift card promotion to those who purchased the roaster and a 10-to-24-pound turkey.

In fairness to Palin, a few of Target’s Thanksgiving items are at higher prices. The most noticeable was spiral cut ham, which increased to $1.99 a pound from $1.69 last year and a 1.5 quart of Breyer’s ice cream, which increased to $2.79 from $2.50. Other increases were negligible. A six-ounce can of French’s French fried onions increased to $2.79 this year from $2.75 last year, and the price of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and Swanson chicken broth went up a penny to 50 cents.

Food inflation has been tame the past year and prices are in check for the holidays, but analysts are forecasting across the board food price increases next year as input costs rise and suppliers look to maintain profits by passing on increases to shoppers.