Consumers forewarned of record high turkey prices this holiday

Watchful Eye

Getting a turkey from your employer may seem like a much more attractive perk this year. Turkey prices have risen and market watchers are warning that consumers are likely to see record prices this holiday season.

The retail price for fresh boneless, skinless turkey breast already reached a record high in September when the price rose to $6.70 per pound. That’s a 112% increase over the same time last year when that same cut was $3.16 per pound, according to American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

Two key factors driving the increase in turkey prices are the effects of the bird flu and inflation driving up production costs.

According to AFBF, February was the first time since the 2014-15 outbreak that the U.S. saw bird flu in a commercial or backyard flock. Wild birds spread the disease to 33 states, and there have now been 468 detections in 2022.

The total number of turkeys lost as a result of the bird flu isn’t known, said Fox Business, but the USDA estimates that there is 2.5% decline in the domestic flock since 2021.

"Year-to-date, 2022 turkey production is the lowest in 10 years," Walter Kunisch, senior commodities strategist at Hilltop Securities Commodities told Fox Business.

And, he added that the USDA’s most recent data show an alarmingly low level of turkeys in cold storage.

With 2022 turkey production estimated at -4.3% from 2021, 2022 whole 8- to 16-pound wholesale hen prices are estimated to be 23% higher than 2021, the article noted.

In addition to the decline in supply, higher costs for feed, fuel, fertilizer and labor is making raising turkeys more expensive.

The USDA’s most recent Farm Sector Income Forecast predicts record high total production costs, increasing by 17.8% from 2021 to $437.4 billion in 2022.

Likewise, Fox Business said Hilltop estimates that commercial turkey production costs in Minnesota, the largest turkey-producing state, have risen 18% from 2021.

It is important to understand that farmers aren’t profiting from record-high retail prices, and the higher production costs are expected to be passed through to the consumer.

“While there should be enough turkeys to go around for Thanksgiving, pressure will keep prices high,” said AFBF.

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