Culture & Society

Turkey Supplies Down, Prices Up Amid Holiday Uncertainty

The COVID-19 pandemic could affect consumer trends this year, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension economist.
By Adam Russell, Texas A&M AgriLife Communications November 13, 2020

Close up of person carving turkey at dining table.
Lower supplies have driven turkey prices up by about 19% this year.

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Wholesale turkey prices are up and production is down amid looming uncertainty over how the novel coravirus will impact traditional consumer trends this holiday season, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

David Anderson, AgriLife Extension economist, Bryan-College Station, said the turkey market has been more interesting than normal going into the holidays. Supply, demand and the subsequent pricing and marketing of holiday turkey in 2020 appears it could be heavily influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Anderson said. Some aspects of the market are already being affected.

On the supply side, turkey production is down 7.7% for October compared to the same time last year, Anderson said. And overall production is down 2.7% for 2020 so far compared to 2019.

Turkeys in cold storage, which are typically stocked up for the holiday rush, were down 11.5% in September, he said.

“The turkey industry has struggled with profitability and some of the trends when it comes to consumer choices around the holidays and the consumer trends when it comes to deli meat,” he said. “You have producers trying to gauge demand and what the market will be, and that’s been difficult the last few years.”

Lower supplies have driven prices up this year, Anderson said. Wholesale turkeys, both tom, which are typically 16-24 pounds, and hen, which are 8-16 pounds, prices were 19% higher compared to last year due to tighter supplies.

Last year, wholesale turkey prices were 20% below the five-year average. Anderson said it would be interesting to see if retailers continue the practice of running specials on turkeys to draw shoppers.

But COVID-19 adds uncertainty surrounding typical holiday gatherings and the subsequent choices consumers will make this year, Anderson said.

A marketing survey by the Food Industry Association and marketing consultants showed 33% of Americans will have fewer people at their traditional Thanksgiving celebrations. Around 26% of respondents said they would avoid long-distance travel.

“That’s interesting in relation to the normal demand side of all things related to these traditional holiday gatherings,” he said. “If people are scaling back, it will be interesting to see how the market for turkeys and traditional Thanksgiving dishes plays out.”

This article by Adam Russell originally appeared on AgriLife Today.

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