Economy

Texas A&M economist says to expect higher prices for Thanksgiving turkeys this year

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) – It’s the staple so many people associate with the holiday season, especially Thanksgiving, but the turkeys many families will be looking for throughout November are likely to come at a higher price this year.

One Texas A&M economist says a drop in production from last year is driving up the cost of turkey, and it could also mean it might be harder to find that perfect bird to place at the center of your Thanksgiving table.

“Turkey production is down this year about 5% compared to a year ago,” Texas A&M professor and AgriLife Extension economist David Anderson said. “Whether we’re looking at the whole bird or pounds, we’re down about 5% in total turkey production this year.”

Anderson says turkey numbers and pounds produced are at their lowest numbers since 2015, causing the wholesale price per pound to increase by about 17%. He says this is caused by decreased consumer demand coupled with higher food supply chain costs. Feed costs are higher, which cuts into profitability. Anderson says that can lead to a cut in production.

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“In this case, other than shipping and labor costs hat are higher, I think if we’re looking at turkeys, I would probably say this is not a pandemic thing necessarily,” Anderson said. “Part of higher costs are, particularly to get it to the grocery store, but feed costs aren’t part of the pandemic. Those underlying demand things over the last few years really aren’t pandemic related either.”

Anderson believes this all builds on a longer term trend in turkey production where per capita consumption has declined over the last few years, relating back to those consumer demand issues.

“We do something else instead of that second turkey around Christmas,” Anderson said. “Some people talk about some turkey fatigue. Every once in a while, folks get a little tired, so they do a prime rib or something else that’s replaced that second one.”

Richard Ruffino owns Readfield Meats & Deli in Bryan. He says he’s experienced the trends Anderson described buying turkeys from his supplier.

“We are paying more this year. They are tight,” Ruffino said. “Probably about 30 cents a pound more, 20 to 30 cents a pound more.”

Ruffino says the higher costs will be passed on to the consumer, but he hasn’t had any issues stocking his inventory.

“So far, we haven’t had a lot of difficulty. We had to check with different suppliers who had some inventory at this late date. Normally with turkey, you have to commit a lot earlier in the year,” Ruffino said. “Probably in the scope of the whole picture of what everything costs, maybe it won’t be too significant. A lot of us are used to eating turkeys on Thanksgiving, so I think most people will be willing to pay a little more.”

Regardless, Anderson says it might be smart to buy your bird early this year.

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“It’s not a case of running out. It’s not a case really of a shortage or anything. Those are kind of some loaded terms for us economists,” Anderson said. “What it means is we’re producing less, and we have higher prices because of it. You might want to get out there earlier to get that perfect size. It’s not going to be the case that there aren’t any, but it may be the case you may not find exactly what you’re looking for.”

But Anderson says the outlook for the future could be different in bucking the trend. He says one thing higher prices could lead to for producers is some increased profits.

“Those profits are the signal to produce more,” Anderson said. “If they can have a consistent return to some profitability, then we can start talking about expansion. That’s something I’d be looking forward to next year is can we get back to some more sustainable profits and some more production that could lead to some lower prices for all of us consumers.”

Written by Andy Krauss

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