By Barbara Olejnik
Poultry Times staff
GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Despite an avian influenza outbreak that hit the U.S. turkey industry, there should be enough birds for that Thanksgiving dinner.
This year, about 8 million turkeys in the Midwest lost their lives to the bird flu, cutting turkey meat production.
As a result, some experts have predicted that the price of commercial turkeys will increase between 20 to 40 cents per pound.
The National Turkey Federation pointed, however, points out that U.S. turkey growers have only lost a little over 3 percent of their inventory since the avian influenza spring outbreak; and that percentage national loss “disporportionally” focused on producing communities throughout two states.
Geographic dispersal of growing among the top-producing states, NTF states, ensures continued national availability of turkey breast at the deli, as well as turkey bacon and turkey sausage breakfast meats, ground turkey and turkey tenderloin.
USDA’s says 228 million turkeys will be raised this year. Those 228 million include the preferred-size turkey hens that are quality flash-frozen for Thanksgiving dinner. Supplies of those frozen turkeys for Thanksgiving are on track with similar levels as time last year, according to USDA Cold Storage Reports.
The federal government’s September cold storage reports stated that the overall amount of frozen turkeys in U.S. warehouses declined from July and August 2014, but tom turkeys accounted for most of that drawdown, not hens.
Turkey hens are the staple for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
Hen stocks were only down 4 million pounds from last year and actually up 14 million pounds from their five-year average, compared to toms that fell 35 million.
Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys were produced and quality flash-frozen before spring, awaiting sale as the seasonal discount incentive to holiday grocery shoppers.
While the price of turkey may increase somewhat, it may not hit the consumer.
The holiday bird is what is generally known as a loss leader in retail circles.
Grocers discount turkey prices to consumers in order to attract them to their store to sell them other items like pies, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
While there may be ample supply of frozen turkeys, consumers looking for local, pasture-raised birds would be wise to order them early.
Turkey may not be the only Thanksgiving staple causing concern.
Some crop experts are predicting canned pumpkin could all but run out by Thanksgiving.
The Midwest got a record amount of rainfall in June, enough to flood fields and wipe out pumpkin crops. About 90 percent of U.S. pumpkins are grown within 90 miles of Peoria, Ill.
Libby’s, which cans pumpkin pie filling, has reported that its supplies are down by a third this year.
The company may have enough supplies through November, but once the remainder of the 2015 crop is shipped, there will be no more Libby pumpkin to sell until the 2016 harvest.