Thursday, September 30, 2021

Turkey in short supply in U.S.

Turkey is in short supply for this Thanksgiving and Christmas season in the United States, but the situation seems under control in Canada.

Total turkey production in the U.S. will be down by four per cent this year from last and light-weight birds will be down by six per cent.

The lighter weights are more popular now with COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of people who can meet for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

Freezer inventories are down by 20 per cent in the U.S. and by 41 per cent for breast meat.

Canada had high inventories heading into COVID-19, so the national supply management agency reduced allocations for production by seven per cent.

When COVID-19 hit and shut down restaurant and cafeteria demand, the agency cut production by another seven per cent.

But then things began to pick up and Turkey Farmers of Canada backtracked.

Agency chairman Darren Ference of Alberta said in a telephone interview that when Easter demand picked up and some restaurant business returned, the agency backtracked on the first seven per cent cut, then when Sept. 1 inventories of frozen turkey proved favorable, the second seven per cent was restored.

All of those birds should be ready for market for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Ference said.

Thanksgiving normally accounts for 36 per cent of annual whole-bird sales and Christmas for 41 per cent, he said.

“Hopefully we got the right numbers,” Ference said.

Both farmers and processing company officials are directors of the national agency and involved in setting production targets.

But processors have appealed the most recent seven per cent restoration and there will be a hearing of the national tribunal if no agreement is reached before then.