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Pandemic causes uncertainty for turkey market

thanksgiving dinner turkey stuffing
Expectations for smaller Thanksgiving gatherings increasing demand for smaller turkeys.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a fair amount of uncertainty for turkey producers, retailers and shoppers this Thanksgiving season, U.S. Department of Agriculture livestock analyst Shayle Shagam said this week. Will family gatherings be smaller this year or even cancelled? Will that affect the number of turkeys sold, the size purchased and the price at which they are sold?

USDA said expectations that people will gather in smaller groups for the holidays this year is resulting in increased demand for smaller turkeys for Thanksgiving tables.

USDA’s Gary Crawford said turkey producers may have considered that these changes would happen, since average slaughter weights for hens in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving 2020 have mostly been lower than in the same week a year ago.

Based on these lower weights, USDA revised its fourth-quarter production forecast 5 million lb. lower to 1.445 billion lb. The 2021 forecast was left unchanged at 5.77 billion lb., which USDA said would be a 1% increase from 2020.

In October, wholesale whole-hen frozen turkey prices averaged $1.157/lb., 19 cents higher than last October. The weekly price was $1.15/lb. for the week ending Nov. 6. USDA noted that the Oct. 2 price of $1.19 remains the highest weekly price of the year.

USDA adjusted its fourth-quarter price forecast 1 cent higher to $1.13/lb. The 2021 forecast was unchanged, with an annual average of $1.06/lb.

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