Higher prices, fewer options for holiday turkeys

Although turkey production is down 5% from last year, prices have greatly increased
calendar icon 14 November 2021
clock icon 3 minute read

With overall production down, and costs for feed, fuel and labor on the rise, turkey prices have climbed considerably, Anderson said in a recent AgriLife Today report. Leading up to American Thanksgiving, the national wholesale average for whole hens is approximately $1.35 per pound. Last year, however, that same pound cost $0.21 less at $1.14 per pound. The five year average was even lower, coming in at $1.06 per pound for the same turkeys.

Wholesale boneless, skinless turkey breasts saw an even bigger increase. While they were $1.80 per pound last year, this year, that number leapt to $3.45 per pound. The five-year average is $2.74 per pound.

In response to falling demand, Anderson said turkey numbers and pounds produced were at their lowest since 2015.

“This has a lot to do with the fact they are producing fewer turkeys,” he said. “Other factors are a part of that, but this is more to do with years of per-capita consumption dipping and longer-term demand-side issues for the turkey industry.”

Other factors impacting demand include a reduction in the number of holiday gatherings., which normally drive demand for whole birds.

"A growing number of consumers have chosen other options like price rib or brisket or an entirely different menu that used to represent that second bird," he said. "It doesn't take a large percentage of that among 330 million consumers to be a big deal."

Prices for pork, beef and chicken are all up from last year, said Anderson. The rise in prices can be attributed to factors such as feed prices and higher demand, he added.

Higher costs and less supply means that many grocery store will not be able meet demand for whole turkeys this year.

"This may not be able to find certain size birds they are used to, or it may be frozen rather than fresh," said Anderson. "This year, buying a turkey may require being more flexible according to what is available."

Melanie Epp

Melanie Epp is a freelance agricultural journalist from Ontario, Canada.

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