A bird flu earlier this year may have wiped out 7.5 million turkeys, but, according to Butterball’s CEO, most Americans don’t need to worry about it disrupting their Thanksgiving dinner.
“If you look at the big number out there… we’re in good shape,” says Kerry Doughty, CEO of Butterball, the largest producer of turkey products in the US. “[Turkeys in] cold storage in September of this year, versus September of last year are almost identical.”
This spring, a Midwestern-based outbreak of avian flu led to the culling of more than 48 million turkeys and chicken. While Doughty says that there was a 3 to 4% loss of turkeys across the industry, Thanksgiving has been saved mostly due to the turkey business’s proactive schedule.
Butterball and other major turkey providers begin producing turkeys for next year the day after Thanksgiving. Most major retailers made their orders for Thanksgiving 2015 early on in the year — before the bird flu hit.
An added bonus for shoppers is that, because the turkey industry made their deals before bird flu’s impact, prices on frozen birds are unlikely to increase much compared to last year. That should mean some significant savings for shoppers, as the USDA predicted wholesale turkey prices in the fourth-quarter of 2015 to be about 20 cents per pound higher than last year, or $US3 more for an average 15-pound turkey.
While frozen birds’ costs are mostly already set, fresh birds — which make up 20% of purchases versus frozen’s 80% — will likely be affected to some degree by shortages. As a result, prices will be “a little bit” higher than in years past, says Doughty.
Still, even if you are a fresh turkey aficionado, Doughty says there’s no need to worry about missing out on Thanksgiving dinner, though he recommends calling ahead of time to make sure your local grocery store has your preferred size and brand.
“There will be plenty of turkey available for everybody this year,” he says.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.