It’s that time of year where our attention turns to turkeys. While the South is not normally thought of as a major turkey producing region, we are major eaters. But, Arkansas and North Carolina are the second and third largest turkey producing states, respectively, according to NASS, USDA data.
Weekly turkey production is down about 5.5 percent for the year compared to last year. But, as Thanksgiving has approached the production gap has closed a little, with production only trailing last year by 2 percent over the last 2 months. Production, estimated to total 5.7 billion pounds is the smallest since 2015. Struggling turkey demand over the last few years and higher feed costs over the last year have contributed to falling production. Per capita consumption at 15.34 pounds in 2021 will be the smallest since 1987.
Tighter supplies have led to higher prices. While USDA no longer reports retail turkey prices, the wholesale market provides an indication of prices for the holidays. Wholesale prices for frozen 8-16 pound hens and 16-24 pounds toms are 17 percent higher than those last year. So, grocery stores will feel the pressure of higher prices and figuring out how much to pass on to their customers. Turkeys are often used to sell the whole basket of Thanksgiving dinner items. It appears that retail store featuring is starting to pick up, but price specials are lagging behind last year.
While stores aren’t likely to run out, it may pay to shop early this year, especially if there is a specific weight, brand, or fresh vs frozen bird you like the best.