Thanksgiving turkey prices will be relatively cheap this year

Lisa Peardon / Getty Images stock

Retailers locked in their prices for turkeys this year, so Thanksgiving won't break the bank for most Americans.


Americans will be able to enjoy relatively cheap Thanksgiving turkeys this year, thanks to many retailers locking in their costs before a drought this year drove up U.S. feed prices.

And retailers are determined to keep prices for the traditional Thanksgiving main course as low as possible, even though sky-high corn prices have nearly doubled the cost of producing a pound of turkey meat this year.

Offering attractive prices for turkey can help retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Supervalu Inc lure customers into their stores for other Thanksgiving staples such as turkey stuffing, cranberries and sweet potatoes, industry sources said.

"Like the rest of the industry, we're seeing an increase in the prices on turkeys," said Mike Siemienas, spokesman for Supervalu Inc, the third-largest U.S. grocery store operator. "We continue to work with suppliers to ensure we're getting the best price possible for our customers."

Retail prices for frozen turkeys have barely moved in recent weeks. Whole frozen turkeys were selling for $1.62 a lb in September, up from $1.57 a lb at the same time two years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.

One reason for that is many producers' contractual prices with retailers were set this spring when feed was far cheaper as U.S. farmers began planting what looked like would be a record corn crop.

The expectations for a bumper autumn harvest evaporated as the worst drought in half a century devastated crops and sent corn and soybean prices to record highs this summer.

The impact of higher feed costs are beginning to show up at some supermarkets that did not lock in pre-drought prices.

A manager at Paulina Market in Chicago said the meat market recently increased the price of their fresh turkeys by about 50 cents a lb to $3.75 a lb.

At Casey's Market in a Chicago suburb, owner David Casey said his wholesale suppliers are quoting prices that are "up a couple ticks, about 5 percent."

The surge in grain prices were also making it more difficult for some producers to secure bank loans.

John Burkel, a turkey grower and processor in Minnesota, said the rising grain prices can make it difficult to obtain bank financing.

"I used to feed a turkey for 22 cents a lb, now it costs 45-50 cents," Burkel said. "When you go to the bank and say, 'I need a line of credit that's twice what I typically have,' they look at you and say, 'Are you out of your mind? How are you getting that back?'"

In 2011, the United States produced 5.79 billion lbs of turkey - a 7.4 percent drop from the 6.25 billion lbs produced in 2008, according to USDA data.

The nation consumed about 5.02 billion lbs of turkey in 2011 - 6.6 percent less than the 5.37 billion lbs in 2008.

Industrywide, farmers and processors say they have scaled back their flocks, and further production cuts are expected as grain prices remain high. September's egg set placements fell 6 percent from a year earlier, according to USDA data.

Jim Hertel, managing partner of Illinois-based food retail consultancy Willard Bishop, cautioned that even if turkey wholesale prices continue to rise savvy retailers will eat as much of the difference as possible.

"Smart retailers will be looking to absorb the costs they can, and spread any of the price increases across other categories that haven't been as hard hit," Hertel said.

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Discuss this post

I'm sure Obama is responsible for this.

    Reply#1 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 5:19 PM EST

    Wrong. It's Bush's fault.

      #1.1 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 5:27 PM EST

      Your both wrong. God is punishing us all for????? Well, something. Bad things only happen when we sin. Like the din of inequity.

      • 1 vote
      #1.2 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 7:46 PM EST

      If prices get too high, cook a chicken and tell your guests its a very young turkey.

      • 5 votes
      Reply#2 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 5:30 PM EST

      If you knew the factory farms where turkeys are *raised* and watched any videos I doubt you would want to eat chickens/turkeys again or any meat. Then again, the vast majority of people don't care and don't want to watch. Don't want to know. Same goes for milking cows, pigs, goats-all factory farm animals. They all live in horrible filthy conditions and then one is surprised by re-calls? They are all abused and treated cruel. Read Farm Sanctuary by Gene Baur or Fast Food Nation. They are educational but heart wrenching yet disgusting. Eating meat is a choice and I don't judge those of you who do. I just advocate for education of what is really going on .......... on factory farms and what they don't want us to see and hear. Isn't it ironic that one can be arrested for video taping what goes on? Gene Baur made a comment: Do the words humane and slaughter fit together?

      • 1 vote
      Reply#3 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 6:02 PM EST


      Check out your teeth. Humans are omnivores.

      • 1 vote
      #3.1 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 7:38 PM EST

      I remember when I was young I had an eighty-five year old aunt who go out the coops & grab the chickens one at time & break their necks, then we would butcher, clean & fry up. Nothing like fresh chicken for dinner.

      • 1 vote
      #3.2 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 9:55 PM EST

      The poor animals!!!! You know that people minus animal protein = monkeys right?

        #3.3 - Tue Nov 6, 2012 8:16 AM EST

        katykaty, I understand your point: most people have no idea what goes on. But, like DJK, I have seen animals slaughtered, and do so when I hunt deer and turkey. Whether it is a factory farm, free range farm, or someone in their backyard - it is not a pretty site, but very neccessary. I have no problem with the factory farms, it allows more people to eat healthier/better for lower costs; this improves our lifestyles and longevity. I remember growing up we only had turkey at Thanksgiving; now we can have it anytime. I'm all for that.

          #3.4 - Tue Nov 6, 2012 10:48 AM EST
          Comment author avatarBartles Jaymesvia Facebook

          this is why I only buy my turkey from a specific farm each year, where I know how they are treated and such. I always buy from the same co-op. costs a bit more per pound but way better than the grocery store turkeys.

          • 3 votes
          Reply#4 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 6:12 PM EST

          I generally hunt my own turkey, brine it in a salt/spice solution for 24 hours and they come out tasty and tender. Of course after I shoot it, I have to rip it's head off to make sure it's dead and bleed it out.

          Not everyone has that luxury so they buy from the market as they can best afford. When you have to feed a family, it's often not a question of how the animal was treated before it hit the supermarket shelf. Either way, weather you hunt or's all about survival.

          • 1 vote
          Reply#5 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 6:54 PM EST

          On a lighter note, nice breasts in the photo. And check out the size of the drumsticks on that turkey also.

          • 1 vote
          Reply#6 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 6:58 PM EST

          Look at her joint on her left arm though. Ick. :P Too much gristle.

          • 2 votes
          #6.1 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 7:19 PM EST

          Growth hormones

          • 1 vote
          #6.2 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 9:55 PM EST

          The price of a turkey is never a problem turkey is cheap meal all year round.

          • 2 votes
          Reply#7 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 7:12 PM EST

          If Romney wins will that only be republican turkey's who are pardoned :) giggle

            Reply#8 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 7:30 PM EST

            Or everyone can do like me- Go to Canada for Thanksgiving. It's another day of the week up there and Hilton is literally giving away rooms with tons of extras.

            Ditch the family and splurge- Win/Win!

              Reply#9 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 8:53 PM EST

              I bought a farm-fresh turkey which I will be picking up on November 17. The farmer is still raising the turkey. Granted, it's costing more than a store-bought turkey (unless you get a kosher bird), but I figured that we'd give a farm-fresh, certified-organic bird a try. I myself prefer kosher turkey (it tastes better), so I'll get a couple extra kosher breasts which will get cooked with the farm-fresh bird.

              • 3 votes
              Reply#10 - Mon Nov 5, 2012 9:11 PM EST

              Is Hilton giving any rooms away somewhere where it's warm :). It's only the beginning of November and it's FREEZING up here in MA!!

                Reply#11 - Tue Nov 6, 2012 8:10 AM EST

                Be nice to see normal turkeys w/o hormones etc

                • 2 votes
                Reply#12 - Tue Nov 6, 2012 8:16 AM EST
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