Consumers can expect higher turkey prices at grocery stores this Thanksgiving. This trend is not surprising given rising costs of other meat and produce.
The poultry supply chain has been affected by various factors, including the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), global conflicts like the Russia-Ukraine war, and increases in feed, energy, gas, labor, and transportation prices. Despite this, however, Jayson Lusk, head and Distinguished Professor of Purdue’s Department of Agricultural Economics, says that poultry, including turkey, remains an affordable protein option for upcoming holiday meals.
“Turkey is still cheaper than beef and pork, even though prices are increasing at a higher rate. Chicken is also more affordable on a per-pound basis,” he says.
Lusk, who is also the director of the Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability in the College of Agriculture, explains. “Since before the pandemic, chicken prices have increased 36%, which is higher than beef and pork on a percentage level. But on a dollars-and-cents basis, chicken has increased 67 cents per pound, which means beef and pork are still more expensive. It’s a higher percentage but still a lower dollar amount.”
Lusk adds, “Turkey prices tend to fall near Thanksgiving, as retailers often use turkeys to get people in the door, and they’ll advertise lower prices.” He recommends price-conscious shoppers be on the lookout for discounts. He predicts that in the future, turkey production will recover as pandemic impacts subside.
Contributing to short-term price increases are depopulations of turkey flocks, caused by HPAI. According to Rebecca Joniskan, president of the Indiana State Poultry Association, 49 million turkeys have died or been euthanized so far in 2022. This number includes 8 million turkeys, 171,000 of which were lost in February and March of this year in Indiana.
However, she says that Hoosiers may be in better shape to recoup, noting that turkey production is more significantly hit when the flu is present at breeder farms, where turkeys produce hatching eggs. “Breeders have not been affected in Indiana to date,” she says.
Indiana turkey farms are “resilient,” she adds, as they typically produce product year-round, whereas production in other states can be seasonal. Given possible disruptions to the supply chain, she advises consumers, “If there’s a particular type or size of turkey you want for the upcoming holidays, start looking earlier.”