Your Holiday Turkey May Be Harder to Come by This Season

  • The right size turkey for your holiday table may be in high demand this year, experts warn.
  • Both the US and the UK face supply chain issues ahead of the holiday season.
  • In the UK, the government issued emergency visas to poultry workers and truck drivers to ease issues in the supply chain ahead of Christmas.

The perfect turkey for your holiday table may be difficult to find this year as farmers in the US and UK battle supply chain issues.

Turkey production in the US has decreased in 2021 compared to 2020, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), possibly making it hard to find a specific sized bird for your meal. Meanwhile, in the UK, farmers are struggling to battle shortages of labor in time for the holiday season.

In the US, the price per pound of turkey has increased due to lowered production expectations, according to a recent report by the USDA. Last year, as families and friends scaled down their holiday gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic, smaller turkeys became increasingly popular, causing a shortage of birds under 16 pounds.

Experts are predicting the same trend during Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, with a higher demand for turkeys between 8 and 16 pounds and a smaller demand in turkey overall due to limited celebrations because of the ongoing pandemic.

“Due to COVID concerns related to the delta variant, we see 1/3 of consumers considering a smaller gathering, and so we expect demand to be similar to last year,” Christa Leupen, the public relations manager at Butterball told Insider. “Over the past year, our network of turkey growers and our team members have had to manage through challenges that could impact the availability of certain sizes or products. We are working with our retail partners across the country to make sure there is a range of turkey products available for Thanksgiving,” she said. 

Butterball, the largest producer of turkey products in the US, says that 61% of its customers are not focused on the size of the turkey on the table but on whether or not they have one.

“If there is a specific size turkey you want, your best bet is to shop early to ensure you can find it,” Leupen said.

36% of consumers plan to purchase their turkeys one week before Thanksgiving, Nicole Behne, vice president of marketing at Jennie-O, told Insider. Half of the Jennie-O customers surveyed said they will purchase a frozen turkey this year while 29% want to purchase a fresh turkey.

Shoppers in the UK may not have the same options ahead of their Christmas feast. The UK announced over the weekend that it will issue emergency visas for poultry workers in order to help ease issues within the supply chain. Currently, the UK is facing a massive trucker shortage, making it difficult for fresh turkeys to reach grocery store shelves. 

The UK government said it would issue 5,000 three-month visas for truck drivers starting in October, and another 5,500 for poultry workers, according to the Associated Press.

Some say that the announcement came too late and that poultry producers have already scaled back on processing the turkeys, Fox Business reported.

“This year it’s looking like there is a national shortage of turkeys when we’re talking about supermarket shelves, rather than buying direct from your farm,” Kate Martin, chairwoman of the Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association, told the BBC. 

When it comes to selecting the right turkey for dinner with limited selection at the store, Butterball says “it is just as easy to cook a larger turkey as it is a smaller turkey, and the larger turkey means more leftovers.” 

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