Will the bird flu have an impact on the country's staple Thanksgiving dish?
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Two living turkeys against a yellow and purple background.
Credit: Allrecipes

When we reported on a possible chicken shortage, an Allrecipes reader reached out with concern about bird flu and the impact it may have on chicken production here in the U.S. We dug into our research and found that, as of July 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports more than 40 million poultry birds have been affected by the illness. Laying hens make up about 78 percent of that number, totaling more than 29 million affected birds, which has impacted supply, another factor that may be driving up egg prices.

The reader's feedback got us thinking about whether or not the bird flu will have much of an impact on turkeys as we close in on fall and Thanksgiving. Essentially, whether or not there will a turkey shortage this year. For insights on the issue, we turned to the experts.

Will the Bird Flu Impact Turkeys Available for Thanksgiving?

"When the turkey industry last experienced an avian influenza outbreak in 2015 there were brief spot interruptions in the availability of some turkey products, but the interruptions resolved relatively quickly and the holiday season was not affected," Beth Breeding, a spokesperson with the National Turkey Federation, tells Allrecipes. "That experience bodes well for this fall and beyond."

"We have not had any cases of Avian Influenza (AI) at chicken farms," says Diana Souder with Perdue Farms. "We know biosecurity remains the best defense to ensure the safety and welfare of the birds in our care, including the spread of AI and other poultry-related diseases.

"We continue to work with our farm partners to ensure we remain mutually vigilant in adhering to heightened biosecurity best practices. We had two turkey farms impacted in Indiana in February," adds Souder.

"It is possible that this year's avian influenza will have an impact on Thanksgiving, but how much of an impact remains to be seen," says Christa Leupen, a spokesperson for Butterball.

"Fortunately, Thanksgiving preparation begins a year in advance at Butterball, and we work closely with our retail partners, our network of turkey growers and our team members to ensure there are a variety of turkey options for the Thanksgiving table," Leupen adds.

Between Bird Flu and Inflation, How Will Turkey Prices Be Affected?

A June 2022 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic Consumer Price Index report shows that the food at home index has increased 12.2 percent over the last 12 months, the largest increase since 1979. How was turkey pricing effected?

The price of poultry and related products has increased 17.3% since the same time last year. Drilling down a bit more into the price increases compared to April 2021, uncooked poultry including turkey is up 11.7%.

"While inflation and other economic factors have certainly contributed to increased food prices in recent months, we are confident there will be sufficient turkey products available at the holidays and that seasonal discounts will still be available at supermarkets," says Breeding.

Should You Buy and Freeze Your Turkey Now?

If you're at the grocery store and happen to pass a frozen foods case with turkeys, should you go ahead and buy to freeze and save for the fall?

"Shopping early is our number-one tip for beating the rush around the holidays," says Breeding. "There's nothing wrong with being prepared, and if you see a turkey that fits your needs and have room in the freezer, go for it."

Leupen agrees. "Of course, if freezer space allows, it is never a bad idea to secure your turkey early!"