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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many consumers are concerned about getting their traditional Thanksgiving turkey, and at a reasonable price.

Gregory Martin, a poultry educator with Penn State Extension, said consumers should be able to find a bird at the grocery store but might need to plan ahead. Martin also said to expect slightly higher prices than last year.

Turkey prices this year are ranging from about $1.50 to $2.30 per pound, though there are stores selling birds for less. The price increase is largely due to the increased cost of shipping.

“Prices are going to go up simply because of the cost to get the birds in the store,” Martin said.

Many supermarkets offer rewards programs, in which customers earn points for money off or free turkeys by spending a certain amount of money at the store leading up to Thanksgiving.

Martin said customers also seem to be getting a jump on their shopping, which is reducing the number of turkeys available.

“There might be fewer turkeys, so you may have to take what’s there,” Martin said. “There’s going to be birds, but with this panic buying, it may not be the right size you’re looking for.”

But turkey is a versatile meat, Martin said. So if you need to buy a bigger bird than usual, there are lots of ways to repurpose the leftover meat after your Thanksgiving dinner.

Another option is to buy just turkey breasts instead of the whole bird. The downside of that strategy is you only get white meat, so dark meat lovers would be out of luck.

Martin also pointed out that consumers don’t have to go to a grocery store to buy their turkeys. Local turkey farms and livestock auctions are other options to get your traditional bird.

But these direct-to-consumer options might also cost more than they did last year.

Dave Brubaker, owner of Lebanon Valley Livestock Market in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, said that turkeys at his weekly small animal auctions are fetching higher prices than last year, and fewer birds have come through the auction house.

This year, turkeys have been selling for $25-$28 per bird, compared to $13-$15 in 2020.

The increase might be because auctiongoers have fewer birds to bid on this year.

“From now on up until Thanksgiving you’d get 10 to 12 a week,” Brubaker said of the turkeys at the sale last year. “And now we’re probably getting three or four.”

In addition to the livestock auction, Brubaker also owns Dave’s Country Store in Lebanon. He typically sells frozen turkeys, but when he called his usual supplier to order birds back in September, the company was already out.

But Brubaker still plans on selling frozen birds this year. He’s currently on the hunt for a supplier that still has birds available.

“Somebody has them somewhere. I just got to find them,” he said.

So whether consumers plan on heading to the grocery store, to a turkey farm or to a livestock sale, the advice stays the same: Plan ahead and be prepared to pay a little bit more than last year.

“Try not to panic about this,” Martin said. “Try not to stress out too much, and plan ahead.”

And despite what kind of meal people end up having on Thanksgiving Day, Martin wants to remind people of the true importance of the holiday.

“I think the main thing is that Thanksgiving is a chance for people to come together, for families to come together, and share a meal,” Martin said.

Regional Editor

Stephanie Speicher is the regional editor at Lancaster Farming. She can be reached at sspeicher@lancasterfarming.com or 717-721-4457.

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