Thanksgiving Day gives us a time to reflect on the bountiful blessings and privilege of living in a free nation.

A nation that has the highest quality and most affordable food supply in the world. Those festive holiday meals should be a reminder of these blessings.

The ready availability and ease of obtaining our food supply is part of the reason our society takes its food supply for granted. It is difficult for most Americans to imagine how much work would be involved if the total production and processing as well as the preparation of our holiday meals were entirely the responsibility of our family.

Those who have the responsibility for preparing a traditional home-cooked Thanksgiving meal for a sizable family know how laborious that task can be. Though modern kitchen conveniences make the task less time consuming and strenuous, preparing a feast is no small feat.

Now, imagine how much work would be involved if you had to raise and process the turkey, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. Then gather the cranberries and nuts, thrash the wheat and corn, grind the flour, kneed the dough and bake the bread.

In comparison, it makes an hour's trip to the supermarket during the pre-holiday shopping frenzy feel like a leisurely stroll in the park.

I contend that if once every five years each family in America had to produce everything consumed during their holiday meals, the citizens of this country would have the highest degree of appreciation for all of America's farmers and ranchers.

Those home-raised holiday meals might be on the slim side during a dry year if this were to become a holiday season tradition. Most likely, Congress would not be haggling over a farm bill if they personally experienced the many risks and the degree of effort involved in getting meals to the family dining table.

For the past decade or so I have attempted to keep tabs on the average cost of the Thanksgiving dinner. The American Farm Bureau Federation's economists perform this analysis each year. Shopping teams are sent out to purchase a list of food items needed to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 10. Items include turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, roll with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and beverages of coffee and milk.

This year native Texan and former Texas Cooperative Extension Economist Jim Sartwelle, now with AFBF in Washington, D.C., was in charge of compiling the survey data of food prices for the 22nd Annual Thanksgiving Dinner cost analysis. His findings were that this year's dinner for 10 was up over last years by $4.16. The total bill this year was $42.26 compared to last year when the average was $38.10.

Sartwelle indicated, "much of this year's price increase was directly related to higher transportation and processing cost which were a result of higher energy prices, but it is still a bargain when the actual food cost of this home-cooked feast averages out to be a few cents over $4 per plate."

This year's shopping survey indicated that fresh turkey was up by some 12 cents per pound. Buying the 16-pound turkey accounted for $1.93 of the $4.16 increase of this year's holiday food basket price tag. Other items that were up significantly higher than last year's prices were milk, the pumpkin pie ingredients and a 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries, as well as the packaged brown and serve rolls.

It looks like we can be thankful that only a minor portion of our "pain at the pump" has not spilled over to our dinner table. Remember, enjoy the holidays and give thanks to our nation's farmers and ranchers for what we eat, as well as the cotton, wool, mohair and other natural fiber products we use on a daily basis.

Blessed holidays to all.