First, a freak train crash jeopardized our bacon supply. We let out a huge sigh, and hoped that was the end of it. Then avian flu started wiping out our eggs. The USDA took the rational step of allowing egg imports to satiate our heavy dependence on breakfast sandwiches. We rested easy for about a week.
That is, until we heard the most recent news: Reuters is reporting that same avian flu outbreak will mean fewer Thanksgiving turkeys for 2015.
According to the USDA, the current avian flu outbreak has so far claimed about 7.8 million turkeys in seven states in 2015. Most of these deaths were preventative cullings to control the disease outbreak. That number might seem huge at first, but it’s worth noting that total U.S. turkey production in 2014 was 237.5 million birds.
Another reason we shouldn’t panic yet: Analysts aren’t certain how bad the situation is. While sales of fresh birds have been gaining in popularity in recent years, most turkeys sold across America for Thanksgiving were slaughtered and frozen well in advance of the holiday.
We’ve Been Here Before—And Recently
With the likelihood that it’s mostly 2015 fresh turkey sales that will be in danger, it’s worth remembering that 2013 saw a fresh turkey shortage as well.
Two years ago, avian flu had nothing to do with the problem, though. Instead, Butterball was having trouble getting some of its turkeys to gain weight, so the company had to cut fresh turkey orders by 50 percent that year. But despite these difficulties, there were no major overall turkey shortages to report.
Amanda Martin is a senior analyst with Express Markets Inc. Analytics, and says that she and other analysts will have a clearer picture of the nation’s turkey forecast after the USDA slaughter report is released next week, on June 25th.
The bottom line, as Martin sees it, is this:
[pullquote]”To see that [monthly young turkey placement on feed] is down 7 percent [compared to last year] makes me think, that’s probably going to mean the big, whole [fresh] birds for Thanksgiving are going to be extremely hard to come by.”[/pullquote]
Just remember: Thanksgiving probably won’t be ruined as long as everyone takes the time to properly thaw that frozen turkey before popping it in the oven.
In the meantime, we’ll just keep hoping this avian flu outbreak gets under control and stops coming for the foods we love.