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Buying your Thanksgiving turkey soon? You may be paying more this year

Around the region, local grocers are reporting higher turkey prices as Thanksgiving sales start to increase, and sellers and producers alike agree avian influenza is a contributing factor.

Turkey Shortage.jpeg
L&M Meats has its turkeys lined up for sale for the Thanksgiving rush in this file photo from 2021.
Jacob Holley/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — Between frozen, fresh and smoked turkeys, Jeff Novak expects to sell 2,500 birds for Thanksgiving. But the general manager of L&M Meats in Grand Forks warns, the traditional Thanksgiving centerpiece could cost customers around 25% more this year than in the past.

“The turkey flu increased the price on them quite a bit,” Novak said.

Around the region, local grocers are reporting higher turkey prices as Thanksgiving sales start to increase, and sellers and producers alike agree avian influenza is a contributing factor.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of Nov. 9, 46 states and 50.2 million turkeys, chickens and other birds in commercial and backyard flocks were affected this year. Included was Minnesota, the top turkey producing state in the country.

All levels of production in the turkey industry were affected by the avian flu, said Steve Umber, a turkey farmer near Viking, Minnesota. Some of the farms infected with avian flu were breeding farms, which resulted in shortages of poults, or baby turkeys. When a farm is infected with avian flu, the processing facility it ships to is then short on turkeys.

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“The demand creates a little bit higher price to the grocers,” he said.

For turkey producers, costs of feed, bedding and transportation have increased.

“So that’s going to drive up meat prices as well for the final product,” Umber said.

Umber’s last flock of the year was shipped off his farm on Nov. 8. Despite the threat of avian flu, his birds stayed healthy and did well during the production season.

“It was a stressful summer but everything went according to plan for our level,” he said.

At Lakeside Meats in Devils Lake, which opened in 2022, another limitation has been sizes of whole turkeys. Manager Jeff Hunt said the suppliers the store works with have a limited number of turkeys, and the ones they do have are either very large and very small.

“The nice 14- to 16-pounders are impossible to find,” he said.

Even so, Hunt said the store will have smoked turkeys, chickens and hams for its first Thanksgiving. So far, he is unsure how much meat will be sold during the holiday season and winter.

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“We opened up right before July Fourth, and it’s been nothing but a guess and a good time,” he said.

In Langdon, North Dakota, Hickory Hut sells more turkey parts than whole turkeys, said co-owner Linda Albrecht. Especially popular with customers is the store’s smoked turkey.

For those buying a whole smoked turkey, it could cost between $44 and $54 at Hickory Hut. Last year, the same birds were around $38, she said.

“Definitely, inflation has hit on the turkeys,” she said.

At L&M Meats, Novak started ordering turkeys four months in advance of Thanksgiving, and other than increased prices, did not run into any issues procuring turkeys this year. He advises customers to plan ahead as well.

“I wouldn’t wait till the end,” said Novak. “Don’t wait till the last minute.”

Related Topics: TURKEYSAGRICULTUREBUSINESS
Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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