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Turkey costs up, supply down this Thanksgiving

Price of whole frozen turkey at least 20% higher than last year
Thanksgiving Turkey
Posted at 12:05 PM, Nov 19, 2021

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Turkeys are in high demand and in short supply this year.

The prices for turkeys are higher than in 2020 and depending on the size of the bird, you might encounter a supply chain issue.

Local grocery store weekly ads are promoting the best-frozen turkey deals as Thanksgiving nears.

But if you're looking for smaller turkeys, they are likely going to be more difficult to find as we get closer to the holiday.

Robert Norvell has been on the hunt for 120 frozen turkeys for a "Feast for Families" event.

However, he is up against a tight deadline to make the purchases using donations.

"By day I'm an attorney. By the evening, I'm out hunting and gathering turkeys for our families here in Palm Beach County," Norvell said.

Robert Norvell, looking for turkeys
Robert Norvell explains the difficulty of finding turkeys this year.

He secures close to 150 turkeys to give to local families at elementary schools, but this year has been tougher than normal.

"You know, my head about exploded when I got the call saying, 'We're not going to have your birds,'" Norvell said.

A supply chain issue with a local distributor got him flying solo to secure the birds for the big giveaway.

"I reached out to some other distributors and they too, for whatever reason, are having supply chain issues. They can't get birds until the last minute," Norvell said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the price of a whole frozen turkey is at least 20 percent higher than last year.

A USDA report shows the amount of federally inspected turkey slaughters is down 7 percent and contributing to the availability of the birds nationwide.

"Smaller birds cost more per pound right now than larger birds," Norvell said.

Butterball statement on smaller turkeys
Butterball says shoppers may experience difficulty finding smaller turkeys this year.

A spokesperson for Butterball agrees.

"Smaller turkeys might be more difficult to come by due to more, smaller celebrations like last year," a Butterball spokesman said.

Just in time for distribution Friday, Norvell said he secured 120 turkeys through Publix.

"What they were able to do to provide me, it's still about 20 percent more than what it's been in the past, but their sale price of, I believe, $1.29 a pound is still below some of the others," Norvell said.

Five Palm Beach County elementary schools each identified 30 families in need at five schools this year.

On Friday, they will get all the fixings for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year.

"My goal is to show these families in our local communities that they matter," Norvell said.

Click here for a full cost of the breakdown of Thanksgiving meals by city.

Price of turkeys at local stores:

Winn Dixie - Weekly Ad

  • Honeysuckle frozen 0.49 a pound
  • Butterball frozen 0.99 a pound

Walmart - Walmart.com

  • Butterball frozen 0.98 a pound
  • Jenny-O frozen 0.87 a pound

Publix - Weekly Ad

  • Publix brand frozen 0.49 a pound
  • Butterball frozen - 0.99 a pound

Aldi - Weekly Ad

  • Butterball frozen- 0.87 a pound
  • Honeysuckle fresh - 1.49 a pound

Below is a full statement from Butterball spokeswoman Christa Leupen on turkey prices:

Fortunately for Butterball, Thanksgiving preparations begin a year in advance and we’ve worked strategically with our retail partners, our network of turkey growers and our team to ensure a variety of turkey sizes and products are in stock this holiday season. While we can’t speak to the rest of the industry, Butterball, which historically represents about one third of all turkeys on the Thanksgiving dinner table, can affirm that our products are available in stores this season.

We’re seeing three key trends this holiday: there are still great deals to be had, prices remain roughly the same as previous years, and turkey is the one of the most economical parts of the Thanksgiving meal, averaging about a dollar per pound.

No matter what your celebration looks like this year, Butterball will be there every step of the way. From tried-and-true tips and customizable leftover hacks, Butterball’s tailored resources, like our long-standing Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, are ready to help home cooks prepare for Thanksgiving, whether it's your first time hosting or twentieth.

Below is a statement from Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous on the situation:

In terms of the holiday season, at Publix, we place our orders for holiday items well in advance of the season, so that we are well positioned to serve our customers with the variety and selection they have grown to expect from us. The earlier you shop, the more selection you have in terms of brand and greater selection availability. The same is true for turkeys.
The earlier you shop, the more selection you have in terms of brand, pounds, fresh or frozen.