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Turkey prices may be higher and availability may be limited this Thanksgiving

Plan ahead for your Thanksgiving meal this year, especially if you want a specialty or fresh turkey. But don't worry too much, an industry expert says.

NORTHFIELD, Minn. — As a second-generation turkey-grower, John Zimmerman knows the industry as well as anyone in Minnesota.

And even though he doesn't raise specific Thanksgiving birds, he has some thoughts about the quickly-approaching holiday.

"No reason for concern," Zimmerman said. "In general, you'll still be able to get the turkey you want for Thanksgiving."

Still, concerns are understandable. 

Between another round of avian flu, lingering supply chain issues and inflation, producers and consumers will have some challenges to navigate.

"If you want a specialty turkey, I would suggest maybe you talk to your grocer a little sooner than normal," Zimmerman said. "There is a fresh market. If you want a fresh bird, I would, again, suggest that maybe you plan a little bit earlier than you normally would. Because those fresh birds might be in a little bit tighter supply. We're also suffering from the same logistics that COVID brought to many other industries."

Higher feed and labor costs are also driving up prices. 

The average price of a frozen turkey this week is $1.99 per pound, according to the USDA, which represents a 73-percent increase compared to last year.

However, those prices could change in the coming weeks as grocery stores put on holiday deals. Plus, most stores book turkeys months in advance, meaning current prices might not reflect what's passed along to consumers. 

"In general, the prices will be up slightly," Zimmerman said. "But it's still a very good value for the dollar, still the best value of meat out there. Don't go buy a ham!"

While turkeys may cost more and selection may be somewhat limited, the impact will not be felt as deeply in Minnesota, the top turkey producer in the country.

"From a Thanksgiving perspective, we raise the most light hens of anywhere in the U.S. Most other places raise the bigger hens for further processing. So, finding that bagged hen for Thanksgiving should be fairly easy in Minnesota," Zimmerman said. "The sky is definitely not falling." 

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