The U.S. suffered its worst outbreak of bird flu ever this year. Some turkey farmers in particular were hit quite hard: 7.5 million birds either died from the disease or had to be killed to keep it from spreading.
Fears that this would make Thanksgiving turkeyless (or penniless) have been proven wrong.
The price of your Thanksgiving turkey was baked in a long time ago. “That turkey was actually flash frozen for quality back in March, which was before avian influenza hit in the midwest,” said Keith Williams with the National Turkey Federation. The Thanksgiving turkeys were not only frozen, they were sold back then, too. “Supermarkets already contract way in advance,” he said.
Thanksgiving turkeys are usually females (hens), who weigh in around 14-16 pounds. Male turkeys, known as Toms, can weigh nearly 40 pounds. The avian flu hit male turkeys in particular. Males are not more vulnerable to bird flu, but they are raised in separate facilities from hens, and it was those facilities that the outbreak largely affected.
The farmers who were hit — and they were hit hard — were mostly in Minnesota, “the rest of the country continued to produce turkey,” said Williams.
On top of that supermarkets discount turkeys heavily. “I’ve got the ads from yesterday’s paper,” said Thomas Elam, president of Farmecon. “Turkey’s on sale for 50 percent off — it’s a device that supermarkets have used for years.”
Come for the turkey, stay for the pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, cranberries, cobbler, green beans, gravy, and whatever else.
According to the USDA, the U.S. will produce 228 million turkeys this year, a drop of about 4 percent from last year. Prices for Thanksgiving turkeys, they say, will probably be the same as last year.