Thanksgiving Turkey Price News Keeps Getting Worse

If you are someone who appreciates a good feast, you have likely started planning your Thanksgiving meal. Or, at the very least, you've been busily submitting your requests to the family chef. With Pinterest bursting with ideas, something as simple as choosing which stuffing to serve feels like a major accomplishment. The biggest concern, however, is getting your hands on the meal's pièce de résistance — the turkey. 

What's so important about the turkey? Why not ham, roast beef, or chicken, instead? While you may be able to swap pumpkin pie for pecan or mashed potatoes for yams, this day of thankfulness wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the turkey. Martha Stewart points to a study conducted by Bits and Pieces to prove this point. According to this survey, the Thanksgiving day classic dish that Americans most look forward to is the turkey, garnering 29.5% of the votes. As the US Poultry and Egg Association shares, this preference translated into 46 million turkeys being devoured during Thanksgiving of 2011, alone (via Insider). And, to further illustrate America's penchant for Turkey, the University of Illinois states a poll conducted by the National Turkey Foundation revealed that 88% of Thanksgiving diners eat turkey on this special day. No wonder people have been known to fight over turkeys in grocery stores. 

Unfortunately, if you are one of the 29.5% that are eagerly anticipating this Thanksgiving's roasted bird, there may be some dreaded news. 

Avian flu and inflation are raising turkey prices

Do you remember the "WKRP in Cincinnati" episode in which the radio station dropped turkeys on an unsuspecting public from a helicopter? They, apparently, thought domestic turkeys could fly (National Geographic reveals that they cannot) and people below were pelted with plummeting poultry. Ironically, while the turkey may be unable to soar, Thanksgiving turkey prices are soaring, instead. 

Why will turkey prices be so high this Thanksgiving? The Wall Street Journal says that avian flu decimated flocks in 39 states, killing 6 million turkeys in 2022. An influx of the illness in Minnesota and California has officials worried that there may be an upcoming resurgence. Good Morning America further explains that, "It takes a really long time to grow a turkey to its market weight of about 30 pounds," so each death represents significant lost resources to the farmer. The Farm Bureau also points to substantially higher costs for "feed, fuel, fertilizer, and labor," which have resulted in "record high total production costs" that are up by 17.8% from last year. Prices may be going up, but it seems the farmers' profits are not. 

What does this equate to in real money? The Robb Report says that breast meat was a mere $2 per pound in 2020, but now fetches $6.5 per pound. They also state that turkey hens (the things most people eat at Thanksgiving) currently cost "57% more than the five-year average." Perhaps that honey-smoked ham looks better now.