Expect higher prices, fewer options on Thanksgiving turkeys

Brownwood Bulletin
Scott Anderson

Consumers can expect higher prices and fewer options for whole turkeys leading into this Thanksgiving, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

David Anderson, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension livestock economist, Bryan-College Station, said turkey production was down 5% compared to last year, but prices have risen significantly. Fewer turkeys combined with higher food supply chain and logistical costs like feed, fuel and labor have pushed prices upward.

The national wholesale average for whole hens is $1.35 per pound compared to $1.14 per pound this time last year, Anderson said. The five-year average per-pound price is $1.06 for those turkeys.

Wholesale boneless, skinless turkey breasts were up to $3.45 per pound compared to $1.80 per pound last year with a five-year average of $2.74 per pound.

Both turkey numbers and pounds produced are at the lowest point since 2015, a response to slipping demand.

This has a lot to do with the fact they are producing fewer turkeys. Other factors are a part of that, but this is more to do with years of per-capita consumption dipping and longer-term demand-side issues for the turkey industry.

We typically think of Thanksgiving and Christmas when we talk about whole turkeys, but a growing number of consumers have chosen other options like prime rib or brisket or an entirely different menu that used to represent that second bird. It doesn’t take a large percentage of that among 330 million consumers to be a big deal.

Anderson said the other big part of turkey consumption – as deli meats – has grown slightly over recent years but is being outpaced by other grocery store and restaurant offerings.

Fewer options for centerpiece turkeys

Prices for pork, beef and chicken are also up, but that other factors from bottlenecks to feed prices and higher demand are driving those increases. Aside from hitting consumers in the pocket, lower supplies of whole birds could mean finding the prototypical centerpiece turkeys could be more difficult this Thanksgiving.

Lower supplies and higher costs could also mean individual grocery stores may not offer feature specials on whole birds that are typically used to attract shoppers in hopes they fill their shopping carts with other related items. They may not be able to find certain size birds they are used to, or

it may be frozen rather than fresh. This year, buying a turkey may require being more flexible according to what is available.

Harvesting exotic CWD susceptible species

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) reminds Texas landowners of statewide exotic chronic wasting disease (CWD) susceptible species requirements for the 2021-22 hunting season.

Exotic susceptible species include North American elk or wapiti, black tailed deer, red deer, reindeer, sika deer, moose and/or any associated subspecies and hybrids. Axis deer are not classified as a susceptible species.

The TAHC and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) have worked diligently to develop and adopt rules to protect CWD susceptible species in Texas. The new CWD rules that went into effect October 14, 2021, are important steps to enhance surveillance and movement requirements to prevent the spread of CWD.

In addition to the TAHC’s statewide surveillance and movement requirements for exotic CWD susceptible species, hunters should be aware of Texas’ CWD Containment and Surveillance Zones. All exotic CWD susceptible species, 16 months of age or older, that are hunter harvested in a zone shall be tested for CWD. In addition, no part of a CWD susceptible species carcass may be removed from the property unless additional carcass requirements are met. Furthermore, no carcass may be moved from a zone unless accompanied by a TPWD-issued-check-station receipt, which is required during the operation of the mandatory TPWD check stations. As an alternative to the TPWD check stations, you may contact a TAHC Certified CWD Post Mortem Sample Collector.

Every calendar year, landowners must have eligible mortalities CWD tested until such time that three animals are tested. An eligible mortality is a death from any cause of an exotic CWD susceptible species that is 16 months of age or older. This includes hunter harvested, herd culling, and natural mortalities on the premises, and animals moved directly to slaughter. The owner of the premises shall ensure that the CWD samples are properly collected and submitted for testing. The owner must also report to the TAHC within 30 days of receiving the test results by writing to Texas Animal Health Commission, CWD Susceptible Species Reporting, P.O. Box 12966, Austin, Texas 78711-2966; by fax to (512) 719-0729; or by email to CWD_reports@tahc.texas.gov.

The owners of high, low, or no fenced properties where exotic CWD susceptible species, at least 16 months of age, are harvested must submit a mortality record to the TAHC each calendar year. Mortality record forms are due to the TAHC on or before April 1 of each year and shall be retained for one year from the date of submission.

To move live exotic CWD susceptible species to or from a premises, the owner must obtain a Premises Identification Number (PIN) or Location Identification Number (LID) from the TAHC or United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). All live exotic CWD susceptible species moved or transported within the state must have an official identification device (ID). For more information on PINs, LIDs, and official ID, contact the TAHC Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) Department at 512-719-0733.

An owner of a premises where exotic CWD susceptible species are located within a high fence shall keep herd records that include an annual inventory and mortality records for all exotic CWD susceptible species. The inventory shall be reconciled and submitted to the TAHC on or before April 1 of each year. Annual inventory records shall be retained for one year following submission.

A complete movement record for all live exotic CWD susceptible species moved onto or off of a premises shall be submitted to the TAHC. The person moving the exotic CWD susceptible species must have documentation with the exotic CWD susceptible species being moved. This record shall be submitted within 48 hours of the movement and be directed to the TAHC by writing the Texas Animal Health Commission, CWD Susceptible Species Reporting, P.O. Box 12966, Austin, Texas 78711-2966; by fax to (512)