Get Yourself a Deep Freezer and Buy Your Turkey Now.
I’ve had the good luck to not have any problems obtaining turkeys for the coming holiday at work. But, then again, we did start to buy our turkeys a couple weeks ago in mid-October. We can do that though because we have a freezer the size of some people’s bedrooms. On the personal side, I have recently reached the limit for a free turkey at the local Shoprite, and thankfully, they have plenty. I also have a chest freezer in which I could shove a turkey of untimely arrival. So why all the hubbub over turkey this year?
Well, the pandemic affected the livestock industry negatively, as it did with almost everything. Some of what it did with agricultural and livestock markets was to instill fear in farmers, producers, and distributors. One of the reasons your restaurant may have trouble obtaining turkey is because a lot of turkeys were already contracted for sale to supermarkets and stores as early as January and February. No one wanted to be responsible for ruining Thanksgiving and Christmas the year things finally started to open back up. That grab-all extended to cranberry sauce, canned gravy, and spices, anything one might need to put Thanksgiving dinner together. It’s why my local Shoprite has ample supplies. It was all put in storage or contracted early. So yeah, Sysco and US Foods may have turkeys in their warehouses, but most or all are for the large supermarket chains. What’s left needs to be pounced upon and not left for the week or days before November 25th.
Another problem is the higher cost of feed for turkeys over the last year, according to the USDA. That could be partly why turkey stock volumes never matched or exceeded the 3yr average. That also may be why there has been a 4% decrease in turkey chick placement as of this past August. That’s important, because August is the last month in which a chick can mature to harvest weight by Thanksgiving.
According to the USDA, by August 31, 2021, there were 428.1million lbs. whole turkeys and turkey parts in cold storage. That represents a 19% decrease from August 2020, but a 24% decrease from the 3yr average. And that is why the holidays may still not be what they were in 2018 or 2019, because a quarter of the turkeys we needed are just not there.