HomeNewsThanksgiving 2020: How COVID-19 Is Affecting the Turkey Industry

Thanksgiving 2020: How COVID-19 Is Affecting the Turkey Industry

by Jennifer Shea
Arthur Gurmankin/Education Images/Universal Images Group

Turkey sellers are bracing for uncertainty this Thanksgiving thanks to the coronavirus.

Consumer research is pointing to smaller celebrations in 2020, the New York Times reports. But it’s not so easy for farmers to churn out smaller birds on short notice.

Thanksgiving market research

The market research firm Numerator found that almost 70 percent of Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving differently this November. And surveys by Butterball and Hormel Foods suggest that larger gatherings will give way to smaller ones this year.

However, turkey growers told the Times that they would have had to prepare for smaller Thanksgiving celebrations in March or April to affect this year’s birds.

Growing baby turkeys to the right size for the market takes months. Additionally, poultry farmers write contracts for the birds a year ahead of time.

“It’s not an industry in which you can quickly pivot,” John Peterson told the Times. Peterson is the owner of the 140-acre Ferndale Market. “For us to have any meaningful impact on changing anything for Thanksgiving, those decisions had to be made in March or April.”

Seeking coronavirus relief

Meanwhile, in Peterson’s home state of Minnesota, turkey growers are seeking coronavirus relief after months of issues. The state is the largest producer of turkeys in the U.S. Turkey farmers there said their industry was excluded from early coronavirus aid, which helped the broader agriculture industry. 

However, recent efforts to expand eligibility did help turkey producers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released $14 billion, made available through the CARES Act, for farmers affected by market disruptions from coronavirus.

So as Thanksgiving approaches, the turkey industry is hopeful people will crave the normalcy of a traditional Thanksgiving.

Mark Jordon, executive director of Leap Market Analytics, follows the turkey market. He also told the Times that this might even be a better year for turkey sellers.

“We could actually see something of a run on turkeys,” he said.