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Sid Miller: What Has Caused Turkeyflation? (11/22/2022)

What’s with Turkey Inflation?

by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller

As many Texans head to grocery stores and other grocery suppliers, they may go into sticker shock when seeing prices for the family Thanksgiving turkey. Prices which just a few years ago were as low as 49 cents a pound now run anywhere from $2 to $6 per pound depending on size and location. Unfortunately, farmers get it at both ends; they make fewer dollars and have higher costs on fewer turkeys.

Much of what you are experiencing at the grocery store is beyond the control of most turkey farmers.

Like anything else for the past two years, your Thanksgiving dinner is a victim of the inflation that has raged since 2021. Food and groceries are on the front line when it comes to price increases for most Americans. Next supply chain issues have wreaked havoc on Americans since the start of the pandemic. But our economy is still experiencing the ‘slinky effect’ on many products. So this Thanksgiving, many suppliers find products are unavailable or not regularly available, since production has shut down or curtailed. So for many a bountiful turkey dinner is the equivalent of a car payment for their large families.

Yes, there are turkeys available for Thanksgiving; but consumer demand is up and is facing a market with fewer turkeys available. Nationally the problem is a smaller supply facing an increasing amount of consumer demand. What has caused limited supply at higher prices?

For one thing, turkey supplies are lower than normal this year due to a severe bird flu outbreak that impacted turkey production in 39 states. According to the USDA, through this past August the outbreak affected more than 40 million turkeys. So turkey production is at least seven percent (7%) lower during third quarter of 2022 than it was in in 2021 at this time.

Sadly, many Texas turkey farmers are no longer in the game. Cuero, Texas - where turkey farms ruled the roost just a couple of decades back - now has no one in the commercial turkey business, neither producing nor processing turkeys at a large commercial scale. Consolidation and high costs made raising turkeys no longer practical or profitable for small farmers.

In Texas today there is no large-scale commercial turkey farm operation or turkey processing facilities. Chicken plants have somewhat filled the poultry void left by turkey operations. Still, some 88% of all Texans and Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

That turkey at your dinner table is most likely shipped from Minnesota, North Carolina, or one of a dozen other states (most in the Midwest). So that bird you’re enjoying faced increased shipping costs on top of other inflationary costs to get to your Texas dinner table.

Just as an example, over 600 Minnesota turkey farms and stakeholders will generate over $1 billion in economic activity for Minnesota and provide more than 26,000 jobs and produce over 44 million turkeys for American dinner tables.

And the other foods and traditions of Thanksgiving have not been spared from inflation either.

As the baking traditions of our past have fallen by the wayside for many busy Texas families, many of TDA’s GO TEXAN members, like Texas’ famous Collin Street Bakery, have worked to keep their prices down for the holidays. They understand how inflation is impacting the bottom line for many Texas families.

But that extra cost for ready-made pumpkin pie is sending some Texans back to scratch baking. That’s why companies like Pioneer (also a GO TEXAN Member) have worked to toe the line on costs. Pioneer has also sought to help families stretch their products into more meals with recipes and other ideas to make the family food budget go farther.

Texas families will see their food prices return to normal in the future. In the meantime, we at your TDA will keep looking for new ways and new ideas to help Texas families keep their food budget under control, whether it be for a typical weeknight or a holiday meal.

From everyone at TDA, have a joyous and Happy Thanksgiving!

Sid Miller is the 12th Texan to serve as Commissioner of Agriculture and is a farmer, rancher, and World Champion Rodeo Cowboy.

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