“Don’t wait until the week of Thanksgiving to make that purchase” and “be strategic and be patient. Plan today for Thanksgiving Day,” are just some of the advice that Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, Russell Redding, doled out to residents as the holiday season approaches.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted that less turkeys were being processed this year, it’s not considered a major shortage. But for those looking to get lighter turkeys under 20 pounds, it’s going to be harder to find.
Inflation, pandemic economics, supply chains, and avian flu rank high among the litany of interrelated factors driving up turkey prices, to the point where some in the poultry industry predict that shoppers will be spending twice as much for a turkey as they did last year.
While turkey prices were already in the middle of a crash before 2020 and producers were lowering the number of turkeys processed, the pandemic exacerbated those conditions further.
Inflation has also been an issue for turkey producers and farmers, who have to pay more for labor and turkey feed, which translates to a higher cost for the final product.
Meanwhile, a contagious strain of avian flu killed off 7.6 million turkeys, or 3.6 percent of the population in the U.S., according to the Department of Agriculture.
“We’re experiencing pinch points in our supply chain, and in our food supply,” Redding elaborated. “We’re also experiencing a workforce shortage similar to other sectors.”
Mel Curtis from Centre County’s YMCA Anti-Hunger program said that while supplies are limited, the program will be providing turkeys for those in need come the holiday season.
It’s estimated that Americans eat 46 million turkeys every Thanksgiving, followed by 22 million turkeys during Christmas, and 19 million during Easter.
Americans ate 5.1 billion pounds of turkey in 2021, or 15.3 pounds per capita, according to the National Turkey Federation.