LOS ANGELES - Ongoing supply chain bottlenecks are causing global shortages and price hikes across nearly every industry. One small impact will be small, fresh turkeys with Thanksgiving right around the corner, experts say.
Consumer Reports says getting a small, fresh turkey this holiday season will prove to be easier said than done.
"You might have a harder time finding a fresh turkey smaller than 16 pounds because demand is up due to smaller holiday gatherings," Consumer Reports wrote.
In July, Shady Brook Farms, one of the nation’s largest turkey suppliers, warned retailers and distributors that the industry is struggling with production issues.
Supply chain disruptions, lower inventory and labor shortages have all contributed to increased costs, which can be particularly difficult for a commodity such as turkeys.
"Turkey is such a seasonal item, dominated by the Thanksgiving market," David Anderson, a professor of agriculture economics at Texas A & M University told the New York Post. "We can build up supplies with frozen turkeys for the Thanksgiving market, but fresh turkeys have a tighter schedule. The eggs have to hatch at a certain time."
Butterball CEO Jay Jandrain echoed the concern for the lack of small, fresh holiday birds when he said that Thanksgiving turkeys on the small side will be harder to find this year, adding that it’s "reasonable to expect" higher prices amid supply chain issues.
Jandrain made the comments on "Cavuto: Coast to Coast" earlier this month, noting that "we don’t expect there to be a shortage overall, but we do see there will be fewer small turkeys this year."
He recommended that consumers "go out to the stores and get them as early as you can."
"In fact, we have heard from many of our retailers who are ordering additional turkeys now because sales have been brisk a little earlier than usual," Jandrain told host Neil Cavuto. "So we do expect a pretty significant sell-through this season."
No matter how you slice it, the USDA says prices for a frozen 8 to 16-pound turkey are up nearly 22% over last year and 68% over 2019.
There isn’t a single entity that is not feeling the impacts of supply chain disruptions exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. food banks already dealing with increased demand from families sidelined by the pandemic now face the new challenge of supply chain bottlenecks increasing costs for charities on which tens of millions of people in the U.S. rely on for nutrition.
The higher costs and limited availability mean some families may get smaller servings or substitutions for staples such as peanut butter, which some food banks are buying for nearly double what it cost two years ago. As holidays approach, some food banks worry they won’t have enough stuffing and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"What happens when food prices go up is food insecurity for those who are experiencing it just gets worse," said Katie Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of Feeding America, a nonprofit organization that coordinates the efforts of more than 200 food banks across the country.
Thanksgiving staples such as canned cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie filling might also be hard to come by because aluminum costs are up almost 90%, Katie Denis at the Consumer Brands Association told Marketplace.
"What that means is your canned cranberry sauce that makes that great sound when it slides out is going to cost a little bit more," Denis said.
Prices on many of these items have jumped in large part because container ships are stranded at ports and unloaded goods are waiting for trucks, leading to mass shortages and delays that have caused a longer-than-expected bout of inflation.
The rising costs are eating into worker pay, creating a drag on growth and driving Republican criticism of President Joe Biden just as his multitrillion-dollar tax, economic, climate and infrastructure agenda is going through the crucible of congressional negotiations.
Ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California account for 40% of all shipping containers entering the United States. As of Oct. 12, there were 64 ships berthed at the two ports and 80 waiting to dock and unload, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.
Commitments by the Los Angeles port’s operator, longshoremen and several of the country’s largest retail and shipping companies are expected to help relieve the backlog.
But there is some good news — there likely won’t be a turkey shortage this year. Turkey sizes may be bigger and therefore a bird could be more expensive, but most people should be able to get their hands on one this Thanksgiving.
Turkey sizes may be bigger and therefore a bird could be more expensive, but most people should be able to get their hands on one this Thanksgiving.
While the production of fresh turkeys is expected to be down 1.4% compared with November 2020, a spokesperson from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) told Consumer Reports "that calling this a turkey shortage is an overstatement."
"Shoppers might have a harder time finding a fresh turkey smaller than 16 pounds because demand is up due to smaller holiday gatherings, but frozen turkeys in all sizes will be in abundance," according to Consumer Reports.
However, if you're looking for a turkey, the sooner you buy, the better. Experts say consider ordering a fresh one from a local farm and check your local independent grocers.
Catherine Park, FOX Business and The Associated Press contributed to this story.