Why You Can Expect A Shortage Of Small Turkeys This Thanksgiving

It’s not Thanksgiving without a roast turkey, but you may have to settle for another kind of bird for the big dinner this year. Turkey farmers all over the country are expecting a shortage of small turkeys (16 pounds and under) around Thanksgiving.

Shady Brook Farms, one of the nation’s largest turkey suppliers, told The New York Post that supply of fresh turkeys would be tight this year. There technically won’t be any fewer turkeys this year—just more people who want one, and not enough time or resources to breed more. Even Butterball (the company who runs the famous turkey hotline each year) weighed in to say if you want a smaller turkey, you’ll have to act fast this year.

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So why do they anticipate that more people will be wanting turkeys? As with many holiday traditions over the past year, it all comes down to the pandemic. It changed the way we celebrate our favorite holiday traditions, Thanksgiving dinner included. Last year, we donned our Thanksgiving-theme face masks and celebrated at home or alone with a very small meal. My family embraced the odd circumstances and ditched the turkey dinner for a non-traditional meal. But as we go into our second Thanksgiving of the pandemic, people are determined to make this one as normal as possible.

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While many Americans likely still won’t be having huge dinners, they’ll want to have all the basics: A roast turkey, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie. Typically you should plan for 1 to 1½ pounds of turkey per person, so a 16-pound bird (which is the dividing line between ‘small’ and ‘large’ turkeys) would still feed around 10 people. But since there will be fewer people around the dinner table, most folks will be reaching for a small turkey at the grocery store—which means if you don’t get one right away, you’ll need to purchase a larger bird or go with an alternative option.

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There’s a reason that people call Thanksgiving “Turkey Day”, it’s because the main attraction at each Thanksgiving day meal is the bird. But as Americans prepare for the Holiday season to arrive, some officials are warning of a potential Turkey shortage.
Experts in the meat production and distribution industries are sounding the alarm right now that turkeys are going to be much harder to get a hold of in supermarkets and retail locations this year.

Those experts say the reason turkey is so hard to find this year, is because production for turkey has slowed recently because of decreasing demand. Add to that the rising cost of production and the pandemic’s impact on meat production and distribution, you have an industry struggling to keep up with sudden demand.

The good news is that you will have better turkey thanksgiving luck finding a bigger bird. Industry experts say that turkeys 16 pounds and up will be much easier to find. But that’s the problem a lot of people might have. For the last few years, reports show that the most popular sized turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals was around 14 pounds.

Ultimately the problem seems to come down to size. Typically bigger birds are less popular because of the amount of work that goes into thawing, preparing, and cooking the bird. But smaller turkeys are usually fresh and not frozen, and that makes cooking those birds easier and puts the food on the table a little quicker. Smaller birds are harder to farm because you have to catch them at the exact right time close to the holiday season, or else they just keep growing.

So what can you do to avoid a bird-less holiday season? Well here’s a couple things experts recommend.

The first is to just stick with a bigger frozen bird. Ultimately the quality will be the same if you cook it correctly, but you will have to adjust your cooking schedule to allow time to thaw and cook thoroughly. If you go with this plan, one word of advice is get a plan ready to store all that leftover turkey.

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