Americans consume a lot of turkey every Thanksgiving. So much so that producers spend the whole year building up stocks to meet robust demand every November. Since 2010, turkey meat production has averaged just under 500 million pounds per month, and while that’s enough turkey to meet the needs of consumers during an average month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said it is not enough to cover Thanksgiving demand.
“In order to make up for this deficit, producers build up stocks in cold storage throughout the year in order to sell them when November comes around. Turkey stocks reach a low point each year after November and then begin building back up throughout the following year, reaching a high point around September just in time to begin the process all over again.”
USDA said the process also helps explain the gap in prices between fresh and frozen turkeys at the grocery store. “Since demand is met, in part, by frozen product built up throughout the year, only a limited portion can be bought fresh leading to a premium at the checkout line.”
The National Turkey Federation (NTF) said more than 233.1 million turkeys were raised in 2015. More than 212 million of those turkeys were consumed in the U.S. NTF estimates that 46 million of those turkeys were eaten at Thanksgiving, 22 million at Christmas and 19 million at Easter.
A survey conducted by NTF also showed that nearly 88% of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving. Since the average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 16 pounds, approximately 736 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the U.S. during Thanksgiving in 2015.