Hormel CFO: Turkey supplies ‘certainly uncertain’

Jennie-O Turkey Store has replenished its turkey supply, and the birds are performing better, but will those situations last?

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Jacinth Smiley
Jacinth Smiley
Hormel Foods

Jennie-O Turkey Store’s meat supply for now is plentiful after the company rebounded from the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), but company officials know that could change should HPAI resurface in its flocks.

“It’s certainly uncertain as to what happens with turkey, but it’s a space that we’re absolutely committed to in the long-term for the company,” said Jacinth Smiley, chief financial officer of Hormel Foods, the parent company of Jennie-O Turkey Store.

Smiley spent a substantial portion of her time speaking at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference about HPAI and its impact on the Jennie-O subsidiary. That conference was held on September 5.

Not since April 19 have any commercial turkey flocks in the United States have been impacted by HPAI, and the nation’s turkey supply – including that of Jennie-O Turkey Store – has rebounded.

“Our birds are performing better. We’ve got a lot more meat in the market,” she said. “Hopefully (during) the rest of the year we’ll continue to have that supply.”

Most of the current meat supply will go into value-added turkey products, because that is where the highest demand is, and it translates into higher margins for Hormel Foods.

Smiley spoke about the turkey supplies less than a week after Hormel Foods held an earnings call for the third quarter of the 2023 fiscal year. During that call, Smiley and Hormel Foods CEO Jim Snee also discussed Jennie-O and the HPAI situation.

Snee remarked that the company has rebounded well from the HPAI outbreak, but he did express that the company had recently dealt with some bird losses related to extreme summer heat.

Jennie-O Turkey Store, according to information from the WATTPoultry.com Top Poultry Companies Database, saw its total number of turkeys slaughtered on an annual basis decline from 1.2 billion in 2021 to 925 million in 2022, largely due to HPAI infections. That represents a 22.9% drop in production, and enabled Butterball, with 1 billion live turkeys slaughtered in 2022, to claim the spot as the largest turkey producer in the United States.

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