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Thanksgiving trends: More travel, TikTok turkeys and some brine for that bird this holiday season

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 22, 2021

Thanksgiving trends this year include recipes for brined poultry along with a new turkey take using TikTok. That’s just the bird. For people, both Friendsgiving plans and an uptick in travel are expected.

For 40 years, Butterball has offered its Turkey Talk Line to call in with poultry questions, at (800) 288-8372, while in recent years adding texting and Twitter. A 2021 first: Butterball will post ideas via TikTok’s short video format.

The company’s analysts also predict many cooks will want to try something new this year such as brining. That mostly involves submerging the bird in a salt-water combo, but dry brining is more like curing.

The idea is to bring added moisture and flavor, stirring up a novelty called Pickle Brined Turkey. A real change would be Spicy Dry Brined Turkey, a rub added early so the bird can sit overnight in the fridge before being cooked.

Other 2021 Thanksgiving trends include more Americans traveling this season as airlines see higher bookings, or for those closer to home, some Friendsgiving feasts.

Jennie-O, another producer of turkey products, runs a helpline at 1-800-TURKEYS or options to text and do online chats. The company cited a poll of 2,000 consumers this year that found:

• A majority of those polled plan to attend a virtual Thanksgiving in addition to an in-person celebration.

• About 42% of people in the survey also will attend a Friendsgiving.

• In buying for the Thanksgiving table, 52% of respondents get turkeys frozen and 29% purchase a fresh turkey. Most turkeys are brought into homes at least one week before the holiday.

• Turkey remains the preferred main dish, but some 42% admitted they’re intimidated to cook it because of fear it would turn out dry and overcooked.

• A majority plan to cook enough food to have leftovers.

• To cook the bird, 51% of respondents said they’ll roast their turkeys, but frying came in second at 34%.

On Nov. 9, AAA announced that about 53.4 million people are expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020.

The trend would bring travel volumes within 5% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019, AAA said, with air travel nearly recovered from a steep decline during the pandemic. As consumer confidence builds, AAA urged travelers to be proactive and check on health guidelines.

“This Thanksgiving, travel will look a lot different than last year,” said Paula Twidale, AAA Travel senior vice president.

“Now that the borders are open and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again high on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holiday.”

With 6.4 million more people traveling this Thanksgiving and the recent opening of U.S. borders to fully vaccinated international travelers, people should prepare for roads and airports to be more crowded, AAA said.

Depending on where those holiday meals are eaten, the coupon website savings.com compared costs across cities for a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner with common ingredients bought at various retail stores.

The site estimates the overall average Thanksgiving dinner for eight adults will cost $39.85 this year, or just under $5 a person.

Savings.com listed examples of cities, with Coeur d’Alene the closest to Spokane. It said the lake city’s cost to buy Thanksgiving meal ingredients for eight adults is expected to range from $30 to $47, depending on the store.

The biggest cost, of course, is the meat. “Turkey, like many other types of meat, has gotten pricier in 2021. According to USDA data, wholesale frozen turkey hens average $1.22 per pound this year compared to $1.07 per pound last year,” the report said.

“Many factors contributed to this increase, including increased demand – more people are expected to have a large Thanksgiving gathering this year compared to last – turkey feed prices and more. Some retailers are also blaming labor costs and higher prices for packaging materials.”

After Thanksgiving, people often shift focus to gift-buying on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The personal finance website WalletHub estimates $312 as the expected average amount spent over the five-day Thanksgiving period.

WalletHub also collected data to round out some other 2021 holiday trivia:

• About 10% of Americans get takeout or have food catered for Thanksgiving. For scratch-made at home, WalletHub estimated an average cost of nearly $47 for making a 10-person holiday meal.

• 10 hours, 2 minutes: Length of time the average American male would need to spend on a treadmill to burn the 4,500 calories consumed at an average Thanksgiving meal.

• $26 million: Amount of property loss caused by residential building fires each Thanksgiving.

• 46%: Share of people celebrating Thanksgiving who try to avoid having to talk politics at the dinner table.

• 65%: Share of Americans who expect COVID-19 to impact their Thanksgiving celebrations this year (only 15% expect the impact to be significant).

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