Usually, a smart shopper can find a relatively inexpensive turkey that won’t bust the family’s bank while still allowing everyone to share in late autumn’s all-American communal meal. But before the days of shoppers’ cards and even freezers, a Thanksgiving turkey was a much more expensive proposition.
Leading up to the holiday, Buffalo’s public markets “pushed Thanksgiving fowl into the limelight” with the sale of live turkeys — all to be butchered and dressed while you wait. You couldn’t buy a turkey until the few days right before, but for those days, a cacophony of gobbles filled the air around the Broadway, Chippewa and Elk markets.
While having a turkey for Thanksgiving has been the holiday’s hallmark for almost 400 years, the price hasn’t always been in everyone’s reach. In 1928, the price for a turkey at one of Buffalo’s public markets was between 50 and 55 cents a pound, which adjusted for inflation, is about $7 or $8 per pound.
The “buxom twenty-pounder” one poultry man described to a reporter would cost as much as $140 in 2016 dollars, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics price calculator.
It wasn’t just turkeys — meat, as a commodity, was much more expensive in general. Ducks were 30 cents a pound, chickens around 33 cents. A goose could be had for 25 cents, and the most affordable meat for your Thanksgiving table would have been rabbit at a reasonable 20 cents a pound.
The essentials for cooking the bird were on sale leading up to the big day in 1928 — Weed & Company, Buffalo’s biggest hardware and bric-a-brac store, had plenty of Thanksgiving utensils available for sale.