We’re only about a month away from Thanksgiving, a holiday symbolized by one food staple above all others: turkey.
But with the pandemic altering plans for much of the U.S., as well as poultry factories, it’s made things considerably more difficult for turkey farmers trying to forecast how much product they can expect to sell.
The Washington Post reports many of the country’s approximately 2,500 turkey farms fear that they’ll be left with too many big turkeys and not enough small ones. This is because there likely won’t be nearly as many large Thanksgiving gatherings this year due to concerns over COVID-19, which will also lead to far fewer people going out for their holiday meals. Many Americans may opt to have smaller gatherings for which smaller turkeys would be better suited. Others, still, may decide to go turkey-less.
All these factors mean a great deal of uncertainty for turkey farmers, poultry processors and retail stores that like to shore up their supply plans months before the holiday.
And turkey producers’ supply problems began well before the onset of Thanksgiving season. Although some farmers get between a quarter and half of their annual sales from November and December, demand has been suppressed by the closure of institutions that buy poultry wholesale, as well as the cancellation of state fairs, theme parks and other venues that serve turkey legs.
Besides the issue of consumer demand, the turkey market is dealing with processing plants that are trying to maintain pandemic-related safety measures and retailers that may adjust their product mix — relying on more ready-to-eat meals, sales of turkey-by-the-pound, and plant-based products that mimic turkey and other Thanksgiving staples.
According to the University of Illinois, Americans eat 46 million turkeys each Thanksgiving, far more than Christmas’ 22 million.