Spend Matters welcomes this guest article by Michael Liberty of Mintec.
As Thanksgiving approaches and with Christmas not far behind, one food item seems to be a staple in most US households: a juicy, succulent turkey. Dating back to meals between the colonists and Wampanoag Indians in the 17th century, turkey has become an iconic centerpiece to the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, this year we may have to dig deeper into our pockets to maintain the tradition.
Historically, turkey demand soars in the second half of the year – approximately 46 million turkeys are consumed in the US on Thanksgiving Day alone. In order to ensure they have enough stock for the higher demand, retailers will buy turkeys throughout the year and freeze them, which results in prices increasing much earlier in the year.
This year, the bird flu hit the US, infecting 37 million egg-laying chickens. It’s not only confined to chickens, though. Since December 2014, more than 7.8 million turkeys have been infected with the bird flu. Once infected, each bird must be culled and disposed of, with restrictions placed on the farm until it is declared safe again, to reduce the risk of further contamination. These restrictions can last as long as 6 months, making it impossible for farms with bird flu infections to rear turkeys in time for the 2015 Thanksgiving or Christmas rush.
Even though the last bird flu outbreak in the US was in June, authorities have told producers to remain vigilant for any flu-like symptoms in their flock. The risk of future infection is expected to increase through the winter months, as flocks of potentially infected wild birds will migrate south toward warmer weather and could spread the disease.
So where does this leave our Turkey dinner? In August, turkey prices were up 17% year-over-year, but from now until Thanksgiving they will surely rise more. Between August and November 2014, prices increased a further 9% as demand shot up. Now could be the best time to buy turkey for the holidays to get them at the best price this year.