Inflationary pressure hits turkey ahead of Thanksgiving

Turkey prices are rising ahead of the 2021 holiday season.

Turkey prices are rising ahead of the 2021 holiday season. 

Shrinking production

The financial malaise blanketing the U.S. turkey industry since 2015 forced integrators to cut back production. This year, domestic producers are projected to slaughter between 5.5 and 5.6 billion pounds of live turkeys. That’s the lowest amount since 2005. Domestic per capita availability of turkey in 2021 fell to its lowest level since 1987.

Tight supplies benefit prices. Turkey products – breast meat especially – did not receive a COVID-19 pandemic demand boost. However, as prices rose for competing proteins, buyers began to see turkey as an attractive alternative. Current prices reflect this shift in behavior. 

Price volatility

In 2015, with the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the country, prices exploded due to the disease-related supply squeeze. High prices led to a crash which lasted for years. In 2017, fresh tom breast meat averaged $1.54 per pound, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. In 2018, whole frozen turkeys, between 8 and 16 pounds, averaged 80 cents per pound, according to USDA data. Those were the lowest annual average prices for both products since 2009. 

Whole turkeys, due to their fixture in the holiday schedule, bounced back quickly. Turkey breast meat prices continue to languish. In April 2021, fresh tom breast meat prices were still below $1.70 per pound.

2021 holiday forecast 

Prices for both whole birds and turkey breasts are trending higher as the upcoming holiday season boosts demand. Spot prices for frozen, 8 to 16 pound hens are currently near the all-time high price – $1.36 per pound in October 2015 – and will certainly beat it by the end of this year. 

Fresh tom breast prices will not break the record, but the August 2021 average price of $3 per pound was strong compared to historical prices. 

These prices reflect patterns in the beef, pork and broiler markets and the existing inflationary pressures retailers and shoppers are feeling. 

Whole Turkey Breast MeatWhole turkey prices climbed into record territory this year while tom breast meat prices are at their highest point since 2016.


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