Turkey prepared for the holidays
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Is There a Turkey Shortage as the Holiday Season Approaches?

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Oct. 13 2021, Published 2:02 p.m. ET

With all the shortages happening lately, consumers are freaking out that there might be a lack of turkeys for their Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. Is there a turkey shortage?

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Kind of, but not really. Although turkey production is down 1.4 percent from last year, there isn't a turkey shortage, according to Consumer Reports. Small turkeys under 16 pounds might be hard to find because of higher demand, but larger turkeys should be readily available.

thanksgiving
Source: Getty Images
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Turkey producers warned of a shortage earlier this year.

Fears about a turkey shortage at Thanksgiving started back in July. Turkey producer Shady Brook Farms predicted that small fresh turkeys would be hard to find by November. The news sent consumers into a panic. Many people turned to Google and searched “turkey shortage” to get more information.

Butterball also sees a small turkey shortage.

Officials at Butterball, one of the leading U.S. turkey producers, also warned of a shortage of small turkeys this holiday season. Small turkeys were all the rage last year when the COVID-19 pandemic forced consumers to limit family gatherings. Some grocery stores increased the amount of small turkeys under 16 pounds they carried by 20 percent, TODAY Food, reported in October 2020.

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In 2021, you’ll have an easier time finding bigger turkeys.

"The good news, it is just as easy to cook a larger turkey as it is a smaller turkey," Butterball spokesperson Christa Leupen told TODAY Food in August 2021. "And a larger turkey means more leftovers that for many people are one of the best parts of the Thanksgiving meal."

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Turkeys will cost more this year.

However, you’ll have to pay a little more for your holiday bird this year. According to Consumer Reports, factors like increased cost of grain-feed, labor shortages, and transportation issues are pushing turkey prices up 10 percent–15 percent. All meat prices are increasing, so the rising costs will also impact those who choose to serve prime rib or roast beef instead of turkey for the holidays.

If you want to ensure that you get a smaller fresh turkey, you could preorder it from a local turkey farm, which might be impacted less by supply chain issues and labor shortages, says Consumer Reports. Those birds will be more expensive than the $1.50 per pound frozen turkey you get at the grocery store.

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Poultry farmers in the U.K. warn of a turkey shortage

The U.S. isn’t the only place that's concerned about the possibility of a turkey shortage. Poultry producers in the United Kingdom are worried that staff shortages might have a negative impact on turkey production.

Source: Twitter
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Due to Brexit, poultry farms have lost most of their workforce. Because the U.K. isn't part of the European Union anymore, workers from European countries like Spain and Portugal must have a visa to get into the country.

“Those workers are no longer available for us to use on a seasonal basis - they will go find work in mainland Europe instead," Kate Martin, chairwoman of the Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association, told the BBC.

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The BBC reports that poultry farmers say visa changes to allow poultry workers into the U.K. on three-month contracts came too late for them to get ready for the holiday season.

"It is the supermarket shelves that will be emptier of turkeys this year than they have been before, only because there have been less turkeys placed on the ground; only because the big processers know that they will not get them processed," Martin told the BBC.

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