Food News

Is Bird The Word? A Turkey Shortage Might Affect Your Holiday Menu

Look for the price of poultry to be more than paltry this Thanksgiving.
Look for the price of poultry to be more than paltry this Thanksgiving. Photo by Raj Rana on Unsplash
As fall is slowly approaching, which we sense is a deliberate tease, people across America are already thinking about their Thanksgiving plans. According to the grocery stores, at least, we are. From making travel plans to trying new recipes, it's all part of the hoopla. But this year, you might need to plan for a shortage of “gobble gobble," or at least expect to pay more per pound.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported that 5.4 million turkeys have been "depopulated" due to exposure to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) from January to July. This disease is known to be deadly to all kinds of birds and has already spread to 39 states, including Texas.

Due to the outbreak, local sources and restaurants are either raising prices or taking turkey off the menu ahead of the holidays. Hurtado Barbecue announced recently on social media that turkey will be off the menu for the time being, but, it is hoped, it will be back in time for Thanksgiving. Owner Brandon Hurtado told us the wholesales price is now double what it normally is.
HPAI has affected this year's stock. According to the Economic Research Service at the USDA, turkey production was down over the second and third quarters but the department projects turkey production "to rebound close to previous year levels by the fourth quarter, which includes the Thanksgiving holiday."

Some are worried about what will be served on the Thanksgiving table, while others had no idea there is a turkey shortage. People have already taken to Twitter where "the math ain't mathing."
One option to ensure you have a big bird on your table on Thanksgiving Day is to shop locally. DFW-based butcher shop Burgundy Pasture Beef already has orders in and a stock secured for the holiday season.

"The supply isn't what's affecting us, it's more of the value of the turkeys themselves," said LynAnne Walden, store operations manager at Burgundy Farms. "We have made reservations for frozen turkeys to be delivered a few weeks before Thanksgiving and have confirmed the number of supplies. So we're not worried about the turkey shortage."

While only 2.5% of the total U.S. turkey supply has been "depopulated" due to the avian flu, the bigger effect might be a price hike. Forbes reports that with "2022 turkey production estimated to be off more than 4% compared with 2021, whole 8- to 16-pound wholesale prices are expected to rise 23% higher than last year."

Butterball says we shouldn't get our tryptophan feathers ruffled. The company's spokesperson Christa Leupen says the company is optimistic about meeting its supply goals this year.

"Although we don’t control prices at the grocery store since individual retailers make pricing decisions unique to their circumstances, we have not seen any indication of retailers backing away from holiday turkey deals we’ve come to expect," Leupen says.

Her only advice is to shop early.
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