You May Want To Order Your Thanksgiving Turkey Earlier Than Ever

For many people, the Thanksgiving feast requires one food to be the centerpiece of the table, and that is of course the Thanksgiving turkey. Although the holiday celebration might have changed over the years, the truth is that turkey is still the focal point of the meal in most cases. Even a newbie cook is ready to tackle the bird and impress their family (and make a call to the Butterball hotline, if necessary). But, in a recent article by Food & Wine, the magazine cautions that your holiday dinner to-do list might need to be planned much earlier this season. 

According to the article, the perfect turkey might be harder to locate in grocery stores this year. Similar to other disruptions happening currently in the food supply chain, there appears to be a potential shortage of fresh, smaller size turkeys, around the 14- to 16-pound mark. To be clear, it appears that the shortage focuses mostly on fresh turkeys and smaller sizes at this point. For consumers that want larger birds or are willing to purchase frozen turkeys, those don't seem to be affected as of now. As stated in a New York Post article, Victor Colello, the meat buyer for grocery chain Morton Williams, is predicting "unhappy customers" unless they want a 20-pound or heavier turkey. 

So, if the larger size and/or frozen bird might be an option versus nothing on the table, the word of this Thanksgiving year just might be "leftovers." In general, it sounds like it's going to be best to plan ahead, bring a big appetite, and prepare for the tryptophan

Thanksgiving turkey shortages are part of the pandemic disruptions

For many people, Thanksgiving is not a feast without a basted, dressed turkey. While the bird might be the star of the table, the reality is that the perfect turkey does not magically appear with the wave of a wand. The food supply chain needs to work in tandem to get poultry into people's homes. Although the old phrase about "the chicken or the egg" might seem trite, without the perfect timing of that turkey egg hatching, letting it grow to the perfect size, and getting it ready for slaughter, a Thanksgiving dinner might not be possible.

As shared in a New York Post article, Daniel Romanoff, president of Bronx-based meat distributor Nebraskaland, said, "It's a very precise schedule to get the turkey to the size of 14 pounds or less." With disruptions to meat processing plants, and staffing affected by COVID-19, the companies are struggling to fill the consumer demand for the smaller size, fresh turkeys. Plus, more people will be hosting Thanksgiving this year than last year now that we've come farther ahead in the fight against the pandemic.

"What consumers have told us up to this point is they are very excited about celebrating Thanksgiving, and they are committed to doing so with a turkey at the center of the table, so turkeys could be tight this year," Christa Leupen, public relations manager for Butterball, told Food & Wine.

Although the magazine reports that larger, frozen turkeys may not be impacted, some consumers may not want that option. Between the thawing and the cooking, that larger bird could be more intimidating to cook. Then again, maybe everyone will be grateful to enjoy a holiday meal together with a good amount of leftovers that they can eat up in the days after T Day.