Your Thanksgiving bird is likely going to be more expensive this year.
This year, turkey farmers have been impacted by avian influenza, which affected more than 50 million birds, according to the CDC. Once one bird is infected, farmers must kill any other birds who might have been exposed to the virus.
This explains why turkeys on sale this Thanksgiving might be smaller than usual, and more expensive. A turkey takes around 20 weeks to raise, but many could not reach that age if timeframes were affected by the flu. This prompted many farmers to begin the process once again. But in order to meet holiday demand, it cut turkey lifespan shorter.
No commercial flocks in Illinois have been affected by the avian influenza, just backyard farms, said Richard Guebert, president of the Illinois Farmers Bureau.
“For us in Illinois, we are in pretty good shape. Depends on what part of the country, and if you’re in a flyaway of migratory birds that has quite an impact as well,” he said.
But that’s not all that’s driving up the prices.
“The cost of doing business is up across the board. Whether it’s feed prices, fuel, the cost of packaging, labor continues to be an issue, so all of these factors contribute to the cost of raising turkeys” said Alison Freidheim, executive vice president at Cougle Foods.
Farmers often think a year ahead of when they want to process the meat they are raising, but for Marcy Prchall, owner of Trogg’s Hollow Farm, COVID has slowed down animal processing.
“Things haven’t caught up, and so it’s hard to get an appointment to process your birds. And in addition to that, with COVID, a lot of people decided they were going to start raising their own meat” she said.
“It’s become much more difficult to secure those [butcher/processing] appointments. You have to really think ahead to be able to get your birds in… it’s still impacting us even now because it’s like we never caught up,” she said.
Freidheim suggests customers do not wait to buy their Thanksgiving turkey until the day before.
“I don’t think anyone should be concerned about not having a turkey on their plate if that’s what they want. Now the size that they want, the brand that they want, that might be limited,” she said.