Inflation hits the Thanksgiving table: Turkey costs may be higher this year.

Thanksgiving turkey may be harder to find and more expensive this year thanks to the spread of the avian flu and inflation.  

As food prices soar across the nation, the recent Consumer Price Index showed the cost of uncooked poultry, including turkey, rose 17% in September from the same month last year.

The average cost per pound of a whole frozen turkey this week sits at $1.46, compared to $1.15 last year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.  

Inflation has caused turkey prices to jump as farmers are paying more for necessities such as feed, fertilizer and labor, making the cost of raising the birds higher.  

The retail price for fresh boneless and skinless turkey breast reached a record high of $6.70 per pound in September, 112% higher than the same time last year, according to an American Farm Bureau Federation analysis. 

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A volunteer grabs a frozen turkey for a motorist at a drive-thru turkey giveaway event held in the parking lot of Zoe Christian Fellowship of Whittier in Whittier, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

Why is there a turkey shortage? 

The impact of inflation is compounded by the avian flu, with poultry producers reporting more than 44.6 million affected birds in domestic flocks – mostly chicken and turkey– across 43 states.  

Iowa alone, one of the top turkey-producing states, has lost more than 13 million birds to the avian flu. In Minnesota, more than 3 million birds have died.  

“All of us are feeling the pain of higher prices at the grocery store,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a statement. Avian flu “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.” 

The number of birds affected by the avian flu this year is approaching the record set in 2015, when about 50 million birds died during the deadliest U.S. outbreak recorded, according to the USDA.  

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‘No concerns’ about availability  

What does this mean for your Thanksgiving table? While shoppers can expect to find higher prices, producers and analysts don’t think meat cases in grocery stores will be devoid of turkey meat.  

“It's been a difficult year for turkey farmers, but we do not have concerns about availability for the holiday,” said Beth Breeding, spokesperson for the National Turkey Federation.  

And it’s not just turkey. Many Thanksgiving staples, from butter to canned fruits to frozen vegetables, have seen some of the largest annual increases in prices ever.   

Breeding recommended home chefs shop early to secure their preferred brand or product.  

“Shoppers who are looking for their holiday bird will be able to most likely go to their local grocery store wherever they shop and find some sort of special discount deal,” Breeding said.  

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