Turkey crunch: Plenty of birds, shortage of sides
This year's Thanksgiving won't be immune to the supply chain issues and labor shortages that have been roiling the nation, but the turkey supply is strong.
The big picture: You might be dealing with a pricier Thanksgiving dinner due to inflation, and you might have to find alternatives for some of your favorite side dishes. But don't fret about the main dish.
What's happening: The only turkey compromise families might have to make is buying a bigger bird than they need this year, Butterball CEO Jay Jandrain tells Axios.
- Smaller turkeys — between 10 and 14 pounds — are in shorter supply than usual because many people are still limiting travel and having smaller gatherings this year, he says.
- And labor shortages at meatpacking plants prompted many turkey suppliers to extend the birds' lifetimes before slaughtering and processing them. So there are just more big turkeys — 16 pounds and up — than smaller ones this year, says Jandrain.
- One reason grocery stores may have fretted about having enough turkeys is that many people bought their birds early, he says. October turkey sales were up 200% year-over-year, per the market research firm IRI. But supply remains strong for last-minute shoppers.
Other Thanksgiving staples, however, are a different story:
- Cranberry sauce: Ocean Spray told ABC News that its ability to supply canned sauce is being interrupted by an aluminum can shortage and transportation issues.
- Pies: Refrigerated pies and bakery pies are slightly understocked at vendors around the country, IRI told Good Morning America.
- Sweet potatoes: North Carolina farmers — who are responsible for about 40% of the nation's sweet potato supply — told a local TV station they would be charging more this year to offset the rising labor costs prompted by worker shortages.
- Gravy: The canned stuff is in short supply at stores, Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of the National Grocers Association told Bloomberg Law.
The bottom line: This may be the year to start getting creative with traditional Thanksgiving favorites.
- And if you end up with a bigger turkey than you need, start brainstorming fun ideas for leftovers.
- Jandrain shared one with me that he's definitely trying on Friday morning: It's a waffle sandwich with turkey, gravy, and cranberry sauce in the middle — the waffle is made out of leftover stuffing.