Prep or Pardon? Turkey prices surge ahead of Thanksgiving

Experts predict consumers will pay nearly double the price per pound for certain types of turkey than the average cost just five years ago.

Wild Turkey

Supply chain issues, inflation, and High-Path Avian Flu are all causing significant complications for the poultry industry -- and consumers should prepare to feel the strain in their wallets when they prepare their annual Thanksgiving feasts.

According to a recent survey conducted by the USDA, turkey prices are surging right before the holidays.

Prices on frozen toms saw the most shocking increase -- rising by 71 percent since 2021. The cost of frozen hens has also increased by 27 percent, and frozen bone-in turkey breasts are up 17 percent on the year.

According to USDA data, the price per pound for turkey hens has increased by 91 percent since 2018.

Wholesale prices for frozen whole turkey hens:

  • 2016 average: $1.17 per pound
  • 2017 average: $0.96 per pound
  • 2018 average: $0.80 per pound
  • 2019 average: $0.89 per pound
  • 2020 average: $1.07 per pound
  • 2021 average: $1.23 per pound
  • 2022 October estimate: $1.53 per pound

The USDA’s recent survey focused on supermarkets and their advertised prices. However, the survey did not consider the rampant issues with avian flu, which reportedly killed more than 5 million birds this year. Nearly two million of those birds died from the virus just in the last two months.

“The 2022 HPAI outbreak has returned in recent months, and the total number of meat-producing turkeys lost this year reached 7.15 million as of October 7th,” according to the USDA’s Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook from Oct. 2022. “Between August 26 and October 7, 1.79 million turkeys were lost to a second wave of HPAI, primarily in Minnesota, California, and Utah.”

When it comes to the holidays this year, consumers don’t really have anywhere to hide when it comes to inflation. But what’s one way to protect your pocketbook? If you can sacrifice tradition, try reaching for turkey’s smaller cousin: chicken.

While turkey prices are skyrocketing, the USDA also reported this week that chicken prices are starting to cool off after experiencing record-high prices earlier this year.

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