Families celebrate Thanksgiving with pandemic rules and rising food costs

As people get ready to sit down for yet another pandemic Thanksgiving, turkeys are flying out the door at Nicholyn Farms.

"It's been busy with turkey sales this year. People are wanting to get together, and they are wanting bigger turkeys than last year for sure," said owner Lynda Van Casteren. "Almost 1,200 of our favourite families have come through in the last three days."

With the province giving the green light to gather with friends and family this weekend, many say this year feels more like a celebration.

"It's nicer to be able to enjoy a holiday like this with friends and family," said shopper Chris Rhora.

Still, some are being cautious and sticking close to home.

"The pandemic was happening last year, and I'm still living with the same people," said shopper Alejandro Gonzalez. "There are six of us on the property, so we all just cook different stuff; I got tasked with getting desserts."

As COVID-19 cases hold steady and the province lifts capacity limits on certain venues, it seems there is a lot to be thankful for.

"This is the culmination of all the hard work we've put in over the last 18 months, and it's starting to pay off as we return closer and closer to normal," said the past president of the Ontario Medical Association, Dr. Sohail Gandhi.

However, one noticeable difference this year, the price of the big bird has gone up.

"The wholesale price of the turkey has increased slightly," said Van Casteren.

But it's not just turkey; from produce to pie, experts say shoppers are paying more this Thanksgiving, partly due to labour shortages causing employers to pay more.

"The Agri-food sector is a high volume, low margin environment, and so if you are paying more for wages eventually, you have to adjust prices," said senior director at Dalhousie University's Agri-Food Analytics Lab, Dr. Sylvain Charlebois. "Beef prices are up on average about 12 per cent; chicken is up about 12 per cent, pork is up more than 6 or 7 per cent, bacon us up 18 per cent, butter 35 per cent."

Charlebois says consumers can expect to see more increases in the New Year.

But for many, just getting the chance to spend time with friends and family this year is enough to offset the added costs.

"Last year, it was just us and the kids at home; we had a turkey for ten that ended up being a turkey for four," said shopper Alyssa Rhora. "(This year) we celebrated with my parents last night and today we do the friends."