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Food economists say no turkey shortage for Thanksgiving, although prices are up

IMG_turkeys.jpg
Stephen Ausmus
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USDA Flickr creative commons

Thanksgiving is coming up in a few weeks. There are reports of a turkey shortage as the holiday approaches. Although that might not be the case.

Agricultural economists point out there’s no turkey shortage. If anything, shoppers might notice a slight increase in prices at the grocery store compared to last year.

Throughout this year, an avian flu strain has made its way across the country devastating large numbers of commercial and backyard poultry farms.

About 5% of the turkeys in those barns have been lost to that flu and that’s largely driving up prices.

But economists said that’s not enough to create a shortage.

Jim Chakeres, the executive vice president of the Ohio Poultry Association, said the avian flu is a main reason for the rise of prices, although there’s other factors too.

“It's costing more to have people on the farm and to employ farmers. And then we also have the transportation costs and energy costs,” Chakeres said. “Everything is higher. And so it's kind of this perfect storm all coming together for high prices across the board.”

Turkey feed like corn and soy are up this year too.

The most recent average price of a wholesale fresh turkey is around $1.80/lb, which is about 20% higher compared to last year.

Frozen turkeys in Midwest markets range anywhere from $0.89/lm - $1.80/lb, according to a USDA retail report.

Although some trends suggest prices might be going though.

Chakeres said finding a 20-pound bird might be harder this year, the alternative might be to purchase a smaller bird or look at buying frozen.

“Turkeys are raised year round, so there are turkeys in the freezer. They're ready to go to the stores and they will be available for you,” Chakeres said. “If you're used to buying a fresh turkey, you might have to buy a frozen one this year, but the quality is just as good.”

USDA reports while turkey production is down this year, it’s expected to bounce back in 2023.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming