Yes, there are turkeys for Thanksgiving – for a price

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First, the good news: There’s no shortage of whole turkeys this Thanksgiving in America

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Turkey may not be able to fly very far. But their prices can go up — along with the cost of other holiday staples like cranberry sauce and pie filling.

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A more recent survey of grocery store prices by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows a different basket of Thanksgiving staples up 5.5% when stores start discounting more.

“Inflation is real. That’s what everyone is saying. Everyone is feeling it,” said Jay Jandren, President and CEO of Butterball. “Whether it is labor, transportation, packaging materials, energy to fuel plants – every Items cost more.”

North Carolina-based Butterball, which supplies about one-third of its Thanksgiving turkey, struggled to attract workers earlier this year, leading to delays in processing. While the turkeys waited, they grew, adding to the already skyrocketing costs for corn and soybean feed.

But Jandren said the labor shortage has eased and the company has been able to secure enough trucks to transport its turkeys to grocery stores. So the number of whole turkeys will be about the same as last year, but there will be fewer small birds.

“The good news about it is that everyone loves leftovers after Thanksgiving, and they’re going to have more of them this year,” Jandrain said.

According to the USDA, the average wholesale price for an 8- to 16-pound frozen turkey in mid-November was $1.35 per pound, up 27% from a year earlier. The USDA said stores offer discounts to entice shoppers, and the average advertised price for a turkey of that size the week before Thanksgiving was 93 cents a pound less than the wholesale cost. This is still up 9% from last year.

For other staples, weather conditions exacerbated the labor shortage. Pumpkin crops were small due to heavy rains and a fungus in Illinois – a top supplier – and drought in California. At the beginning of November, fresh pumpkins averaged $2.72 per pound, according to Nielsen IQ, a 5% increase from a year ago. Prices for green beans rose 4%, while canned cranberry sauce rose 2.5%.

Ryan Boyer of Dallas, Texas usually buys turkey a day or two after Thanksgiving to save money. But this year, she signed up for the receipt-scanner app Ibotta, which gave her turkey, potatoes, corn, soup, gravy, and cornbread from Walmart — all free — just for signing up.

“If that hadn’t come along, the plan was to just go into the woods with my wife and the grill wieners,” joked Boyer.

Still, many retailers are facing cost pressures of their own, pulling back on their usual Thanksgiving promotions. In the week before Thanksgiving, the number of U.S. stores offering specials on turkey was at its lowest level since 2017, said Mark Jordan, executive director of Leap Market Analytics, which tracks livestock and poultry markets.

“There will still be some leeway, but some of the extreme liabilities are going to be few and far between,” Jordan said.

Diana Jepsen, a retiree from West Hartford, Connecticut, said she usually pays $1 per pound for her Thanksgiving turkey. This year, her 23-pound butterball was priced at $1.50 a pound. But she still thinks it’s a good value, especially compared to the recent price hikes she’s seen for beef and chicken.

Jepsen will be celebrating Thanksgiving with 21 family members, including her 96-year-old mother. Her Cuban-American family savors turkey in a mojo criollo marinade. Jepsen’s husband, George Jepsen, former Connecticut attorney general, cooks the turkey following his mother-in-law’s prescription. Other staples, including black beans and yucca, have not increased in price, he said. Jepsen also found boxed stuffing on sale.

“We still think it’s a good deal to be able to serve so many people,” she said.

Jandrain said high turkey prices are likely to persist into 2022. The cost of feed, along with labor and transportation costs, remains high.

However, that could help the turkey business, which has been facing faltering demand for parts like turkey breast and deli meats for years. Jordan said the industry slaughtered 159 million turkeys in the first nine months of 2021, giving the US its lowest per capita supply of turkeys since 1987. Higher prices may encourage farmers to raise and slaughter more turkeys next year.

For some buyers, availability — not price — was the biggest concern this year. Lauren Knapp, an economist in Rochester, New York, bought two frozen turkeys weeks before the sale because she was concerned about shortages. Knapp and her partner plan to make a practice meal on Thanksgiving in early December and a second meal for relatives.

“Friends in D.C. were saying it would be a chicken Thanksgiving because they couldn’t find turkey anywhere,” said Knapp, who was relieved, even though some of the things she buys, like low-sodium turkey slices for sandwiches, said. , this year has been hard to come by.


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