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Business & Economy

Thanksgiving Turkeys Could Be Harder To Come By This Year

Turkeys could be harder to come by this Thanksgiving.
Matthew Rand
Turkeys could be harder to come by this Thanksgiving.

Farms and grocery stores alike are feeling the pinch from supply chain issues, labor shortages and rising prices.

It's the home stretch at Weiland's Market in Clintonville, as shoppers grab what they can ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We're busy. We are already sold out of most of our turkeys," said store owner Jennifer Williams.

It’s not just turkeys that are in short supply, but everything from pumpkin praline pies to food container lids.

“We have had trouble getting commodities, like large sizes of stuffing. There is a cream of mushroom soup issue. There's just it's very odd sort of random things. We are managing to piece things together. But you know, it is what it is," Williams said.

Weiland's gets its turkeys from Bowman and Landes, a 145-acre turkey farm in Clark County.

Andrew Bowman
Bowman & Landes Turkeys

Farm co-owner Andrew Bowman said even though they raised a few thousand extra birds this year, they're still having trouble meeting demand.

“The trend last year was everyone was wanting small turkeys and bone-in turkey breasts for their small family gathering. And that has changed this year,” Bowman said.

Bowman's turkeys are sold fresh, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture said inventories of frozen turkeys are down nearly 25% below the three-year average.

"So I really don't like the word shortage in this case," said Trey Malone, an agricultural economist at Michigan State University.

"It's not like we just somehow forgot that Thanksgiving was coming and for some reason we forgot to grow the turkeys."

Malone blamed the turkey turmoil on supply chain disruptions that are affecting a wide variety of industries.

He said people are excited to return to larger Thanksgiving gatherings, and demand for turkey is way up.

"With that increase in demand has also come these bottlenecks that are related to labor, to trucking to international shipping, etc. And so it's all coming to a head and I think it'll all hit us in about a week," Malone said.

Turkey farmer Andrew Bowman said inflation makes it more expensive to raise the birds.

“So that would be you know, our turkey feed costs, corn and soybean costs are much higher than they were a year ago," Bowman said.

Those costs get passed onto consumers. A new survey by the American Farm Bureau finds the average cost of a Thanksgiving turkey dinner climbed 14% this year.

But Beth Breeding, vice president of communications and marketing at the National Turkey Federation, said there are still plenty of deals to be found.

“You may have to do a little bit of looking in some cases if you're looking for something specific but there should be plenty to go around and getting out there early helps make sure you get what you want,” she said.

Bowman agreed it's a good idea to buy your bird sooner rather than later.

“If someone walked into their local grocery store the week of Thanksgiving expecting to get exactly the size turkey they want, it might be an issue. So I would just suggest to everyone that order your turkey in advance of Thanksgiving week.”

Grocer Jennifer Williams said her staff is working hard to meet the demand, just as they have since the start of the pandemic. She admits they're tired.

“Please be kind. The people that show up to work are trying to help you," she said. "We know everybody's under stress, but please do not take it out on us. There's not a damn thing we can do about a lot of this stuff. And we're trying, and it's a cumulative tiredness.”

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.