We might not think much about turkey prices and production much of the year, until now. Thanksgiving is when turkey gets all the center of the plate attention. Record high turkey prices raised a lot of eyebrows last year. High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) cut supplies leading to higher prices. The unexpected HPAI impact was on top of reduced production driven by a lack of profitable production.
Those record high prices spurred production increases in 2023. Halfway through November, turkey production is 5.5 billion pounds, up 4 percent from the same period last year. It’s worth pointing out that while production is higher than last year, third quarter production is the smallest since 2015 (not counting last year) which was the last time we had a major HPAI outbreak. Production for 2023 will be higher than last year but is still likely to be the second smallest production year since 2000.
Prices have responded to increased production by falling dramatically. Frozen tom turkeys weighing 16-24 pounds were $0.88 per pound, 50 percent lower than last year in mid-November. Smaller frozen hens were 44 percent lower than last year. Fresh whole birds are normally higher priced than frozen birds. Fresh hens were $1.47 per pound in mid-November compared to $1.88 last year.
USDA reports retail turkey prices featured or on special at more than 29,000 retail, grocery stores around the country. Turkey item specials normally ramp up right before Thanksgiving and this year is the same with 72.5 percent of stores reporting some feature on a turkey item. That is compared to 56.3 percent of stores last week. Featuring is a little slower than last year when 86 percent of stores had some feature. USDA defines specials as a sale with some kind of “no price” or a buy one, get one free special. Twelve percent of stores had a special advertised this year compared to only 4 percent last year. So, while there are slightly fewer features, there are more buy one, get one free specials this year. Grocery stores often use turkeys to boost sales throughout the store, so, you may pay a lot less for your turkey than quoted wholesale prices.
Us livestock economists at SAT have a lot to be thankful for this year. We hope you have a great Thanksgiving!