A sign for Hart's Turkey Farm and Restaurant in New Hampshire. This summer's drought pushed up corn prices, which turkeys eat. That increase is squeezing eateries like Hart's.
Remember the drought that drove up corn prices to a record high last summer? Well, turkeys eat mostly corn. The American Farm Bureau Federation says the average cost of a 16-pound turkey went up 66 cents in the past year, or about 4 cents a pound. That might not seem like a big bump for your family’s holiday feast. But what about a family business that serves Thanksgiving dinner year-round?
If you ever get the craving for a turkey dinner -- with all the trimmings in June or July -- Hart's Turkey Farm in Meredith, N.H., has you covered.
Sim Willey is general manager of the restaurant -- it’s been in his family for three generations. Willey says he's open 364 days a year. "We do take Christmas off," he says with a smile.
Hart’s started in 1954 as a working turkey farm with a 12-seat restaurant. Now its dining rooms hold 500 people, and serve thousands of turkeys a year. Willey buys them from a farmer in Utah and he says he’s paying 20 percent more for turkeys since last summer’s drought decimated Midwestern corn crops.
"It’s hard. We haven’t raised our prices here in about two years," Willey says. "This year I did have to raise my prices." He says it was directly because of the turkey price increase.
And that's because these birds eat a lot of corn -- 60 percent of their feed, according to the National Turkey Federation. Spokeswoman Peggy Albertson says on top of that, the EPA won’t lower its renewable fuel quota for corn-based ethanol.
Albertson says, "There is less corn out there because of the drought, and what corn there is, is being mandated to be blended into the gasoline."
She says that’s left the country’s corn stocks at an all time low, and it’s hard to predict how long they’ll take to rebuild.
At Hart’s Turkey Farm, Sim Willey says the business is trying to absorb some of the extra cost, but he has had to cut back on some employees’ hours. As for the New Hampshire restaurant’s higher prices, Willie thinks either his customers don’t mind or they haven’t noticed.
"Knock on wood," Willie says with a chuckle, "Not a word."