Turkeys may gobble up the holiday budget this year

Written by Sydney Flora, Applied Turkey Economist and Dean’s Communications Intern

turkey dinner

Eighty-eight percent of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation say they eat turkey on Thanksgiving, with families consuming an average of forty-six million turkeys each holiday.

This year, increased demand and supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may put the squeeze on consumers' budgets.  

According to a YouGov poll, nearly 32 percent of Americans chose to not gather for Thanksgiving in 2020. This year, families eager to make up for the lost time are planning more small holiday gatherings and celebrations, which has caused a hike in the demand for turkeys.

This increased appetite for turkey has been unfortunately paired with reported labor shortages throughout the manufacturing and transportation industries, as well as increased costs for producers caused by environmental challenges.


"Throw climate change into the mix and we’ve got sky-rocketing costs for grain-feed, too, said Phil Lempert, food market analyst, in a recent Consumer Reports article.

All of these factors mean the cost of turkeys is expected to increase by 18 percent. Prices for all other Thanksgiving ingredients are also expected to rise this year, according to the New York Times.

The good news is that the main shortage is predicted to occur in smaller turkeys weighing less than 16 pounds. Experts are suggesting consumers buy their turkeys early or pre-order a small, fresh turkey from a local farm. Local farms are less likely to be affected by the supply chain issues affecting the larger meatpacking facilities.

If you are unable to buy a smaller turkey, larger turkeys will likely be available, though at an increased cost. If your budget allows it, the surplus of turkey leftovers can feed your family for days to come. These online recipes for turkey leftovers may help you get creative and find a dish for any meal of the day.

Here are a few fun turkey facts to spice up your Thanksgiving conversation:

  • The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds, similar to the weight of a medium dog
  • Ben Franklin advocated for the turkey to be the official United States bird
  • The first Presidential pardon was ceremoniously given to a turkey in 1947

Best wishes for a happy holiday season filled with (hopefully) reasonably-priced turkey!

Updated: 11/05/2021 01:23PM