Turkey prices reach record highs as Thanksgiving approaches

Americans will be facing a record-high cost for a traditional Thanksgiving turkey this fall because of inflation and a shortage caused by bird flu outbreaks.

The cost of turkey hens — the bird that most often appears on Thanksgiving dinner tables — is currently up 57% compared to its five-year average, according to market data from research firm Urner Barry cited by the Wall Street Journal.

Prices have hit their highest level on record. Turkey breast meat has surged to a record of more than $6.50 per pound this year. The same cut costs less than $2 per pound in 2020.

Turkey supplies are lower than normal this year due to a severe bird flu outbreak that has hampered production across 39 states. Through August, the outbreak has affected approximately 40.57 million turkeys across the US, according to the US Agriculture Department — with more exposures expected during a period of even higher demand.

Turkey production is slated to be 7% lower in the third quarter of 2022 than it was in the same period last year.

Turkey production is lower than normal due to bird flu outbreaks.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Recent bird flu outbreaks at farms in Minnesota and California threaten to exacerbate the supply chain ahead of this year’s holiday, industry analysts told the Journal.

Jim Snee, the boss of one key supplier, Hormel Foods, said during an earnings call Thursday that the firm was facing “significant challenges,” including “persistent upstream and downstream supply chain disruptions” and “limited turkey supply.”

Sales volume for the firm’s Jennie-O Turkey Store brand dropped by 20% in the most recent quarter and is projected to fall by 30% in the current quarter.

Turkish production
Bird flu outbreaks have affected farms in 39 states.
AFP via Getty Images

“Lower industrywide turkey supplies are expected to keep prices higher,” Hormel Foods CFO Jacinth Smiley said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, supermarkets are unlikely to receive their usual shipments of turkeys ahead of the holiday — and the birds that do reach shelves will be priced higher than normal.

“Retailers are not getting what they want, they are getting what is available,” Urner Barry executive Russ Whitman told the outlet.

Household budgets have been under severe pressure for months as inflation has swelled — with even basic items rising to prices not seen in decades.

As The Post reported in July, loaves of artisanal bread hit $10 in some grocery stores during a global wheat shortage.

Inflation moderated slightly in July, falling to 8.5%. The better-than-expected Consumer Price Index reading fueled optimism that inflation may have hit its peak.


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