Turkeys will cost you a wing and a drumstick — er, an arm and a leg — this Thanksgiving. Here’s why.

The average bird costs 32 cents more per pound this year than last year. Avian flu is a big reason. And they’re smaller, too.

SHARE Turkeys will cost you a wing and a drumstick — er, an arm and a leg — this Thanksgiving. Here’s why.
Leading up to Thanksgiving, turkey supply is at a low while cost is at a high compared to last year.

An outbreak of avian flu means there will be 3% fewer turkeys available this year than last year.

Nicky Andrews/Sun-Times

Shoppers are finding smaller turkeys and higher prices this Thanksgiving.

Turkeys are running 32 cents a pound more this year after avian flu culled flocks last spring. The outbreak also means that some turkeys showing up at stores are younger and smaller.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says turkey prices are averaging $1.55 a pound, compared with $1.23 a pound last year.

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Lily Allan, a Loyola University Chicago student who plans to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends, said she might have to do without turkey. 

“I’m a student, and I probably won’t be able to afford it if it’s super expensive,” Allan said Monday.

Allan said that, over the past few months, she’s seen poultry prices rising at her supermarket. That has meant she has eaten less chicken than she used to. 

“I have stopped buying so much meat just because it is expensive, and most of the time I can do without,” Allan said. “If I am buying meat, it’s usually deli meat.” 

More than 50 million U.S. aquatic birds, commercial poultry and backyard flocks were infected with the avian flu this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tasha Bunting, associate director of commodity and livestock programs for the Illinois Farm Bureau, said the avian flu outbreak means 3% fewer turkeys will be on sale compared to last year.

Bunting said shoppers hoping to get big turkeys may have to instead buy two or have an alternative meat with their turkey. 

Lily Allen, a current student, said if the cost gets too high she’ll have to skip turkey for Thanksgiving this year.

Lily Allan, a Loyola University student, said if the cost gets too high, she’ll have to skip turkey for Thanksgiving.

Nicky Andrews/Sun-Times

The USDA attributes part of the price increase to inflation of farming products used to raise and sell turkeys. Bunting agrees. 

“Right now, we have really high feed costs, really high fuel costs and transportation costs,” Bunting said. “So there’s a lot of things that are impacting the price that consumers would be paying at the grocery store.”

Kayla Kauffman, whose family runs Ho-Ka Turkey Farms in Waterman, about two hours west of Chicago, said the thousands of turkeys the farm sends to Chicago this time of year were about 30 cents more expensive per pound than last season.

“The biggest thing we’re struggling with is transportation, finding drivers to get our product out to people. And we’ve had to raise our prices to accommodate for increased gas and bird feed prices,” Kauffman said.

“Thankfully, avian flu didn’t affect us because we started raising our birds after the geese that spread the disease had already migrated south for the season,” she said.

The owner of Edgewater Produce, Pete Dallas, said he’s had to look for turkey from sellers he wouldn’t typically buy from.

“We’ve been struggling to fill from other vendors, but they’re not as good quality,” Dallas said. 

Dallas said one of the big companies he buys from usually puts turkeys on sale each week, but it hasn’t done so in over two months. 

Pete Dallas, the store owner of Edgewater Produce, said the store has struggled to buy turkey due to the decrease in supply.

Pete Dallas, the owner of Edgewater Produce, said the store has struggled to buy turkey due to the decrease in supply.

Nicky Andrews/Sun-Times

Contributing: Mitch Dudek

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