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A turkey farm in Pennsylvania. Photo: Hannah Beier/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The route that your turkey took on its way to your table this year was beset by extreme weather, global supply-chain issues and labor shortages — many of the same factors contributing to the "Everything Shortage."

The big picture: Our Axios Local teams have turned their eye to each piece of the turkey supply chain — from Iowa, one of the top producers of animal feed nationwide; to Minnesota, the biggest turkey producer; to Arkansas, home of Walmart, the country's largest retailer.

The feed

Iowa's dominance in corn and soybean production makes it a top producer of animal feed.

  • Yes, but: Its farmers faced layers of challenges this last year, ranging from extreme weather conditions to a spike in global demand, resulting in skyrocketing feed prices for the rest of the U.S.

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

  • Meanwhile, there's been a spike in global demand for corn, particularly from China, meaning there are more dollars chasing fewer supplies.
  • That's resulting in higher feed prices for livestock producers, who were already under financial stress from 2020's disrupted food supply chain, said Lee Schulz, an economics professor at Iowa State University.
The turkeys

Minnesota farms produce around 45 million heads of turkey a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • Jennie-O Turkey Store, a subsidiary of Minnesota-based Hormel, is the second-largest turkey producer in the country, as of 2019.

State of play: The resurgence of family Thanksgivings, after 2020's pandemic disruption, might not be that lucrative for Minnesota farmers.

  • Although the USDA has predicted record-high prices for birds this year, they'll be offset by those higher feed prices, according to MPR News.
  • There's also been a supply chain disruption for a key feed supplement made in China.
To your table

These supply chain disruptions shouldn't affect your ability to bring home a turkey this year, as Axios' Erica Pandey reported.

  • But Butterball CEO Jay Jandrain did say that smaller turkeys are in shorter supply than usual. Demand is high because people are still being COVID-cautious and planning smaller gatherings.
  • Labor shortages at meatpacking plants also prompted many suppliers to wait longer before processing turkeys, and the birds kept getting bigger in the meantime.

What to expect: Customers are shopping for their Thanksgiving meals earlier than usual this year, Walmart spokesperson Trica Moriarty tells Axios.

  • "Walmart will have plenty of turkeys for the Thanksgiving holiday," Moriarty says.
  • Concerns of a turkey shortage drove an early surge in sales, Charles Redfield, the company’s executive vice president of food, said in a statement. In October, frozen turkey sales were up more than 100% compared to last year.
  • "Because our merchants anticipated customers would shop earlier, we planned ahead and secured ample supply," Redfield said.

Axios' Alex Golden, Nick Halter and Linh Ta contributed to this report.

Sign up for Axios Local, now publishing daily newsletters in 14 cities across the U.S. with 11 more coming in 2022.

Go deeper

How the pandemic changed how we eat

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A food revolution began pre-pandemic, partly due to a culture war inspired by climate change.

  • COVID — with its supply chain issues, social distancing, worker shortages, even the loss of smell and taste — accelerated all that.

America's food industry is transforming, from farm to your table.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 years in prison

An anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar.Photo: Hkun Lat/Getty Images

A Myanmar court sentenced the country's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Monday to four years in prison on charges of "inciting public unrest" and breaking COVID-19 protocols, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: It's the first of several verdicts that could result in the 76-year-old Nobel laureate being imprisoned for the rest of her life.

3 hours ago - World

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"

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