Pricier Thanksgiving Turkey This Year, Warns Butterball CEO

By Jonathan Walker | November 3, 2021
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
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This Thanksgiving, people might have to shell out more for turkeys. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

With Thanksgiving approaching, people have begun preparing for the celebration. However, high demand and rising inflation means that this year’s Thanksgiving might be pricier than last year. In an interview with Fox Business Network, Jay Jandrain, CEO of food manufacturer Butterball, confirmed that the price of turkey, the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving dinner, will likely be on the higher side.

Though he doesn’t expect a turkey shortage overall this season, Jandrain feels that there are going to be fewer smaller turkeys in the market. He pointed to the rise in food prices to argue that it is “reasonable” to expect turkey prices to be up this year. 

“Our advice to consumers is go out to the stores and get them as early as you can. In fact, we have heard from many of our retailers who are ordering additional turkeys now because sales have been brisk a little earlier than usual, so we do expect a pretty significant sell through this season,” Jandrain stated.

According to a national survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau last November, U.S. household spending on turkeys was among the lowest in several years. The entire Thanksgiving dinner for 2020 was the lowest since 2010. But things are different this year. A report by Wells Fargo cites the economics of supply and demand for the rise in turkey prices.

Over the last five years, turkey production has declined. Many production facilities shut down in 2019 and 2020. The low turkey prices in previous years was not good for producers’ revenues, thus resulting in the shutdown of many processing plants. The impact of these closures is now reflecting in the market. 

“The turkey price in 2021 is starkly higher compared to prior years… Late September turkey prices this year are running nearly 25% more than the prior year, and nearly 50% higher than a prior five-year average… In other words, a whole turkey for this holiday season is going to cost you nearly double what it did just a couple of years ago,” analysts from Wells Fargo wrote in a report.

In an interview with KRCR, Francisco Torres Carachure, a grocery store owner in Redding, California, said that he would think twice before placing an order for turkeys due to the surge in prices. 

He believes turkey prices could rise even more as we get closer to the holidays. Last year, turkeys were priced at around $1.99 per pound. But now, they cost “almost twice” at $3.00 to $4.00 per pound.

Despite the rise in prices, some customers are insistent that good times with family takes priority over wallets. 

“As a customer, to me, it doesn’t matter because if I want something fresh I know where to find some. We can do without a lot of things, but we want to have that fellowship with our family so, for me, I think it’s worth it,” a customer who was visiting the store told the media outlet.

It is not the price of turkey alone that is increasing. The cost of other items necessary for a Thanksgiving dinner are rising as well. And in some cases, the items are in shortage. 

Caroline Hoffman, a resident from Chicago, had difficulties sourcing mini marshmallows and cream of tartar. “Even finding cans of pumpkin has been honestly difficult… So as I see them, I grab a few,” she told the NYT.

In September, the Consumer Price Index, which measures the weighted average of prices of certain consumer goods and services, rose by 4.6 percent compared to a year back. The prices of fish, eggs, and poultry went up by 10.5 percent.