There’s No Turkey Shortage, But Thanksgiving Preparations Should Probably Start Soon

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Kirk Mckoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

For those of you who saw “turkey shortage” trending on Google when Shady Brook Farms said their supply was low, don’t worry. There isn’t actually going to be a shortage. You can rest assured knowing you’ll have a bird to carve on November 25th. But if you don’t want to break the bank buying that turkey, you should order it a little early.

Shady Brooks, which is one of the largest turkey producers in the US, was right about the dip in stock. But turkey production is only expected to go down 1.4 percent. And the Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that won’t affect consumers. People who need smaller turkeys that weigh under 16 pounds may need to look a little harder than usual. But the worst-case scenario is they’d have to buy a larger bird and eat more leftovers.

However, you still may need to start buying your Thanksgiving staples a little earlier this year. According to Anne-Marie Roerink, founder of 210 Analytics, there are ongoing problems with the foreign and domestic food supply chain. The world is currently dealing with labor, transportation, and materials shortages. And on top of that, the cost of livestock feed is skyrocketing. Those factors will lead to higher food costs.

“Some of that cost will ultimately go to the consumer,” Roerink told Consumer Reports. “So while you likely won’t have an issue finding a turkey for Thanksgiving, you’re going to pay more than you’re used to.”

Food market analyst Phil Lempert said we should expect to pay 10 to 15 percent more for all meat products this year. So if you have your heart set on specific items, you should consider buying them early and storing them in the freezer.

Local Turkey Farms are Less Affected By Shortages

If defrosting a turkey doesn’t sound appetizing, you have other options. Just make sure you plan ahead. If you want a small, fresh turkey, place an early order at a local turkey farm. According to Andrew DeCoriolis, executive director of Farm Forward, large local farms and corporations that partner with local farms aren’t as affected by shortages.

“We’re kind of immune and a little bit isolated from the greater market forces,” says Tim Ring at Heritage Foods. “We’re not in the big leagues, where they’re seeing a lot of disruption in the supply chain.”

Ring confirmed that his company has the same amount of small heritage birds as previous years. But his year, they’re selling for about $139 for an 8- to 10-pound turkey, which is around $10 more than 2020’s prices.

If you’re ok with a frozen bird, you should go ahead and buy one now. And if you’re seeing shortages inside national grocery stores, try a local market. Just like local farms, they’re less affected by food chain problems.