Rising turkey prices are no boon to farmers

Minnesota farmers raise about 45 million turkeys per year on more than 500 farms, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The price for these birds has steadily increased this year as demand increased after being slowed by the pandemic last year when fewer families gathered and restaurants were empty.

“The USDA actually predicts that this year will be a record price for turkeys,” said Tim Petry, livestock marketing economist in the extension service at North Dakota State University. “Price-wise, these are the best prices they’ve seen in a number of years. So, you know, that’s good news for the growers.”

While this year is better than last for turkey farmers, this good news about prices is tempered by the rising costs of keeping birds.

“We mainly raise turkeys, which are boys, and we process about 1.7 million birds per year,” said Jessica Westbrock, president of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association which helps run a large family business in the county. of Stearns, Minnesota.

The high prices of corn and soybeans to feed the turkeys account for a good chunk of the farm’s profits, she added.

A customer looks at turkeys for sale at the Discount Warehouse in Crystal City, Va. On November 23, 2004.

Paul J. Richards | AFP | Getty Images 2004

“These are our two most important ingredients and these prices were considerably higher than last year or previous years,” she said. “Consumers will see the increase, but the producer may not necessarily be able to take it home. We just have to pay more to grow the turkey.”

Supply chain disruptions also make it more difficult to obtain a key dietary supplement produced in China, Westbrock said.

Nationally, turkey production is down slightly this year. Even with higher demand, Petry expects there will be plenty of birds to buy. But consumers might see larger-than-normal turkeys in the freezer section.

Hens are typically sold as whole birds, Petry said, and the larger toms are typically used for turkey breasts or deli meats. But those production models changed ahead of this year’s holiday.

“The industry knew we would be shorter on whole birds this year. So they funneled more toms into the whole bird market to help meet Thanksgiving demand,” he said.

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A flock of turkeys.

Dan Gunderson | MPR news pack

Westbrock said his farm has responded to this trend.

“As producers of toms, we have marketed younger toms, we call them bagged consumer toms for whole birds. [sales], which we’ve never done in the last few years, ”said Westbrock.

While turkey prices are up 17 cents a pound from a year ago, Petry said consumers are still likely to find good deals as many stores sell turkeys at a lower price, an practice known as a loss leader.

“Often they make call turkeys to entice customers to buy the more expensive mark-up items that come with the meal,” he said.

And Petry expects some stores to have deals on a turkey alternative.

“Ham prices are cheaper. It’s one of the few things at the wholesale level that’s cheaper than last year,” Petry said. “And so we could see retail stores, put some kind of big bang on hams as well.”

Petry expects next year’s turkeys to cost less because higher prices this year will cause farmers to raise more turkeys next year, and more supply usually means lower prices.

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