news talkin turkey virginia poultry federation says there should be ample supply local restaurants are being told another story
Local/Virginia

Talkin’ turkey: Is there going to be a shortage of turkeys at Thanksgiving this year?

thanksgiving turkey
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Consumers should plan ahead for purchasing their Thanksgiving turkey, but if you want a turkey for your feast, you will be able to find one, according to the Virginia Poultry Federation.

“There will be an ample supply of turkeys available this holiday season,” said Hobey Bauhan, president of the Virginia Poultry Federation.

Local restaurant owners are hearing something completely different from their suppliers.

Two restaurants in Stuarts Draft, Sooner BBQ and Sanzone’s Italian Restaurant, both made posts to social media recently about the turkey supply.

“This is a public service announcement. There is going to be a shortage of turkeys at Thanksgiving this year, and the ones you find will be expensive,” read a post from Sooner BBQ on their Facebook page. “According to our supplier the turkey population had been decimated by the bird flu. If you see a turkey in the grocery store, you may want to consider getting it now.”

Sanzone’s Italian Restaurant made a post Tuesday about the current supply of turkey. “Due to a shortage of turkey from our food vendors, we will not be able to offer turkey at this time.”

Sanzone’s said they use PFG and US Foods as suppliers.

“I haven’t been able to purchase any turkey for the last two weeks,” they said in a Facebook messenger chat with AFP. “Both companies are out completely. The prices have been going up for about a month, but now they have none.”

Asked specifically about this, Bauhan said: “I can’t speak to that specific situation. There’s not a shortage of turkeys.

“It should be available. I can’t speak to what that specific circumstance might be about.”

Bauhan said it seems like every year these type of conversations take place.

“We certainly advise consumers every year to plan ahead,” he said. “That’s a good way to make sure that you can get what you’re looking for.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that nearly 6 million turkeys were depopulated between January and July after being exposed to the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or HPAI, which may reinforce what suppliers are telling local restaurants.

However, according to Bauhan, high path avian influenza only impacted about 3 percent of the overall market.

“We haven’t had any commercial flocks with avian influenza in Virginia,” he said. “It’s primarily been in the Midwest.”

COVID-19, supply chain issues, food inflation and lack of workforce have all been raised as potential factors that could impact turkey production this year.

“There is a lot of competition in the workforce so we’re not immune to that in the Shenandoah Valley,” said Bauhan. “I don’t think that’s having an impact on our production of turkeys for the Thanksgiving season.”

With grocery prices up across the board more than 13 percent, it is possible the price for turkeys may go up. But, Bauhan said, that’s hard to predict with many grocery stores offering seasonal deals, discounts and specials on frozen turkeys.

“The key is to not wait until the last minute,” he said. “Go ahead and scope it out. Do some shopping and figure out what you want …

“You are going to be able to find turkey for the center of your Thanksgiving table.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.