Why turkey may not be the meat gobbled at Thanksgiving feasts

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Supply chain issues are affecting almost every product, but turkeys are especially affected because they are difficult products to manage.

Kyle Cattani, a professor at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, told News 8 that “as much as half of all turkey consumption occurs on Thanksgiving Day.”

Experts say farmers have to plan ahead to assure turkeys for Thanksgiving.

“It takes 32 weeks to raise the hen that will lay the eggs, another 4 weeks to incubate the eggs, and then another 18 weeks to grow the turkey. That adds up to 54 weeks, so that means that farmers right now are not thinking about Thanksgiving 2022, they’re actually thinking of Thanksgiving 2023.”

Cattani said, because turkeys are not very profitable, fewer farmers are willing to spend time raising them.

“This year, they got hit with a double whammy: this bird flu, which exasperated the problem of capacity was reduced even further,” Cattani said. “So, that’s on the supply side, and, on the demand side, it’s also been kind of complicated.”

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated knowing how many turkeys to raise. Fewer large thanksgiving dinners during the pandemic resulted in lower demand, but the return of large gatherings has increased the need.

Cattani said it is difficult to say just how much turkey prices will be affected as stores offer promotional deals around the holidays.

Charitable organization Mozel Sanders Foundation in Indianapolis says turkey is not on its menu for its annual free Thanksgiving Day meals.

Stephanie Sanders, chief operating officer of the the Mozel Sanders Foundation, said, “We will be serving pulled chicken breast because of the bird flu and the shortage of turkeys, and our chef, Chef Cullen, who has been with us for years, said that’s the way we are going to go.”

Other groups say they also will change their meals if the cost is high or turkeys are unavailable.

One person who celebrates the holiday, Kelli McDaniel, said about the lack of turkeys, “My dad would probably be bummed, but we could branch out to something else; maybe chicken, maybe ham. We’ve had a pork roast on Christmas before, so maybe go that route. If it’s way too expensive it’s not worth it for one meal.”