How America’s turkey supply chain brings birds to your table

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The path your turkey took to your table this year was marred by extreme weather, global supply-chain issues, and labor shortages—many factors contributing to the “shortage of everything.”

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big picture: Our Nerdshala local teams have their eye on every part of the turkey supply chain—from Iowa, one of the top producers of animal feed nationwide; For Minnesota, the largest turkey producer; Arkansas, home of Walmart, the largest retailer in the country.


Iowa’s dominance This makes it the top producer of animal feed in corn and soybean production.

  • yes but: Its farmers faced layers of challenges last year, from extreme weather conditions to increased global demand, resulting in skyrocketing feed prices for the rest of the US.

extreme drought conditions This spring fed into rising costs of corn in much of the state, as farmers questioned how much yield they could produce.

  • Meanwhile, global demand for corn, especially from China, has increased, meaning there are more dollars chasing less supply.
  • Iowa State University economics professor Lee Schulz said this has resulted in higher feed prices for livestock producers, who were already under financial strain from 2020’s disrupted food supply chain.

Minnesota Farm According to the US Department of Agriculture, about 45 million turkeys are produced a year.

  • Genie-O Turkey Stores, a subsidiary of Hormel, Minnesota, is the nation’s second largest turkey producer as of 2019.
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state of play: The resurgence of family Thanksgiving, following the disruption of the 2020 pandemic, may not be as appealing to Minnesota farmers.

  • Although the USDA has predicted record-high prices for birds this year, they will be offset by those high feed prices, According to MPR News,
  • There have also been supply chain disruptions for a major feed supplement made in China.
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These supply chain disruptions Don’t let that affect your ability to bring home the turkey this year, as Nerdshala’ Erica Pandey pointed out.

  • But Butterball CEO Jay Jandren said smaller turkeys are in shorter supply than usual. Demand is high as people are still being COVID-vigilant and planning small gatherings.
  • Labor shortages at meatpacking plants also prompted many suppliers to wait longer before processing turkeys, and the birds continued to grow in the meantime.

what to expect: Walmart spokeswoman Trica Moriarty told Nerdshala that customers are shopping for their Thanksgiving meals earlier this year than usual.

  • “Walmart will have a lot of turkey for the Thanksgiving holiday,” Moriarty says.
  • In a statement, the company’s executive vice president Charles Redfield said concerns about a turkey shortage fueled an initial jump in sales. In October, frozen turkey sales were up more than 100% from the previous year.
  • “Since our merchants expected customers to shop first, we planned ahead and secured adequate supplies,” Redfield said.

Alex Golden, Nick Halter and Linh Ta of Nerdshala contributed to this report.

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