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Wholesale turkey prices exceed 2017 levels

Retail markup expected to remain high in 2019 but should contract slightly on rising wholesale prices.

Whole frozen hen wholesale prices averaged 96.88 cents/lb. in October, more than 18% higher than last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest “Livestock, Dairy & Poultry Outlook.”

“While 2019 monthly prices have consistently exceeded 2018 prices every month this year, October is the first month where prices exceeded 2017 levels,” the report noted.

In fact, USDA said recent price movements also suggest that wholesale prices have returned to historical trend levels.

USDA NASSwholesale turkey november 19.png

USDA recently reported that wholesale turkey prices have been sharply lower than in past years. Yet, do lower wholesale prices mean lower turkey prices at the grocery store? Not always.

“While wholesale and retail turkey price movements are historically correlated on a yearly basis, seasonal factors can disrupt this correlation,” the agency explained. “Commonly, in the past, retail turkey prices during the Thanksgiving holiday season were near annual low points, while wholesale prices were near yearly highs.”

Between 2014 and 2016, USDA said the November markup from wholesale to retail prices for turkey averaged 18%, compared with an average 40% markup over the entire five-year period. Beginning in 2017, however, wholesale turkey prices began a sustained decline that was not reflected in retail price movements.

“The retail markup in November 2017 reached 75% and remained high at 70% in November 2018. The markup is expected to remain high in 2019 but should contract slightly due to rising wholesale prices,” USDA said.

The data suggest that the past relationship between wholesale and retail Thanksgiving turkey prices may be fading, as retail prices have become less responsive to downward movements in wholesale prices, USDA explained.


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