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AFBF: Record turkey prices expected this Thanksgiving

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The centerpiece of most Thanksgiving dinners — the turkey — could reach record highs at the grocery store this holiday season.

According to American Farm Bureau Federation economists, turkey and egg costs have skyrocketed thanks to the impacts of the bird flu and inflation. This September, retail prices for fresh, boneless, skinless turkey breast reached a record high of $6.70 per pound – 112 percent higher than the same time last year when prices were $3.16 per pound.

»Related: Despite inflation, producers are more optimistic about farming

The previous record high price was $5.88 per pound in November 2015, during the 2015 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak. The first outbreak of HPAI in a commercial or backyard flock since 2015 occurred in February of this year in a commercial turkey meat bird operation in Indiana, largely impacting price hikes for 2022. 

Since the initial HPAI outbreak, the disease has spread to 33 states affecting commercial producers. According to the USDA’s September 2022 Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, August 2022’s turkey production was 16 percent below July and 9.4 percent below the same time in 2021. Turkeys raised in the United States are forecasted to be down 2 percent from last year. 

HPAI
Image courtesy of USDA, Flickr

In addition, processing weights have been below historic levels. HPAI outbreaks have incentivized producers to market younger birds. The average weight of a mature turkey in September was 7 percent below the average weight last year. 

Inflation is also adding to the price hikes. All retail food prices were 11.4 percent higher in August compared to the same time last year. Despite the higher prices, there should be enough turkeys available for the Thanksgiving demand.

“All of us are feeling the pain of higher prices at the grocery store,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “HPAI outbreaks in the spring and an uptick in cases in the fall are taking a toll, but farmers remain dedicated to ensuring America’s food supply remains strong.”

It is important to understand that farmers aren’t profiting from record-high retail prices. High supply costs from feed, fuel, fertilizer, and labor make raising turkeys even more expensive. USDA’s most recent Farm Sector Income Forecast predicts record high total production costs, increasing by 17.8 percent from 2021 to $437.4 billion in 2022.

»Related: Farmers earn only 14.3 cents of every Thanksgiving food dollar

While egg prices have come down from record highs in July, the average price for a dozen grade A eggs is $2.34, 27 percent higher than the same time in 2021, and 44 percent above the five-year average of $1.29.

Despite higher prices and tighter supplies, demand has remained strong and is forecast to increase. The September USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report estimated demand in 2023 for turkey to be 7.7 percent greater than the 2022 demand. 

HPAI has had a significant impact on the supply of turkey available in the United States in 2022. The good news is fall HPAI detections are well below spring numbers. While there should be enough turkeys to go around for Thanksgiving, pressure will keep prices high with supplies forecasted lower and demand forecasted higher for 2023.

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