Consumers could see higher prices for whole turkeys at grocery stores this holiday season, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
David Anderson, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension economist, College Station, said production trends and higher wholesale prices could translate into higher retail prices through the holidays.
Turkey sales typically peak leading into Thanksgiving through Dec. 31 to feed consumer demand for traditional holiday meals, including whole birds, he said. But poor market conditions in recent years have caused producers to adjust to consumer trends with fewer birds and smaller storage supplies.
Turkey prices in 2019
As of September, whole bird turkey cold storage levels were down 5% compared to a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A deeper look into the numbers showed cold storage of hens, which are smaller birds, were up 9.5% compared to toms, which were down 15.5%.
“I don’t expect a shortage of holiday turkeys,” he said. “But lower supplies might result in higher prices at stores if demand is there.”
Wholesale whole turkey prices are already higher compared to last year – 96 cents per pound compared to 80 cents this time last year, Anderson said. However, consumers are still getting a bang for their buck as prices are still 20% below the five-year average.
Price-conscious consumers should shop around for holiday turkeys
But Anderson said consumers may be able to avoid higher prices on whole turkeys at grocery registers by shopping around. Some grocers typically run specials on whole turkeys to entice shoppers. Some stores may also give whole turkeys to shoppers who meet certain purchase thresholds.
“The thought is that if they give up a little on turkeys, they can get you into the store in the hopes you buy your dressing ingredients and eggs and butter and sweet potatoes and marshmallows and all the other goodies there to make up for it,” he said.
Anderson said consumer trends show whole turkeys are no longer the go-to centerpiece for holiday meals. Other options like prime rib, brisket and specialty prepared meats are finding a place on holiday season tables.
“I have no hard evidence, but just what I see and hear, and it’s that people still want that Thanksgiving turkey, but I think they’re going with other traditional and non-traditional options for Christmas,” he said. “That’s, I think, another area where whole turkeys may have lost some ground in the market.”