No, this isn’t a hysterical warning that there will not be enough turkeys by Thanksgiving. It is simply a recommendation to buy now, as well as a reminder that we are living in strange times when it comes to food availability. True, the turkey production outlook has been revised down for the fourth quarter by 10 million pounds to 1,355 million pounds, according to the USDA. And it’s true that a July outbreak of HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) in a commercial turkey plant in Utah forced the destruction of 51,500 birds. But just like last year, it will come down to timing more than total availability.
So, yes, things appear bleak, but don’t panic. Be practical and opportunistic. That is the response so many of us in the foodservice sector learned to take over the last two years. Many food businesses are already seeing shortages of turkey products when they order, and many of them are planning to buy Thanksgiving turkeys starting now as opposed to late October/early November, like they used to do. That’s because there was a time in which people could make predictions and forecasts that could be relied upon, but we have all learned that at any moment a war could break out; a new virus could pop up; or climate chaos could dry up all of our food. Or at least that is what can happen when things are already weakened, as things were during the lockdowns. That said, I suggest you act like a restaurant owner and buy your turkey soon and freeze it. Because the longer you wait, the shorter the supply and the smaller the bird. Oh, and keep in mind that you can hunt wild turkeys in New Jersey, always a handy plan B.