The shift to smaller birds has thrown a wrench in the plans of some turkey producers.
Gunthorp Farms, a pasture-raised poultry and pork farm in LaGrange, Indiana, underestimated orders for smaller frozen turkeys and is slaughtering some birds earlier than planned to satisfy demand.
Usually, half of the more-than 6,000 turkeys it sells for Thanksgiving are fresh, harvested a week before the holiday, but this year more than two-thirds will be frozen as it fills orders for 2,000 extra smaller frozen birds. There will be fewer turkeys left to cut into parts.
“This will be the most whole turkeys that we have ever sold,” Gunthorp said.
At Kauffman Turkey Farms in Waterman, Illinois, 60 miles west of Chicago, President Robert Kauffman said he hoped the pandemic would have dissipated by the holidays so he planned for the same number and size of turkeys as usual. He sells his HoKa brand birds both to walk-in customers as well as retailers.
Now people are asking for smaller turkeys, but he usually reserves the 8- to 10-pounders for food bank donations and he doesn’t want to renege on that commitment. He is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I expect it’s going to be a whole lot more like normal than people think,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bell & Evans, a premium poultry brand that sells to higher-end retailers like Whole Foods, sold all of its smaller 8- to 14-pound turkeys but has plenty of 24-pounders left, said fourth-generation owner Scott Sechler. Families can always ask their butcher cut the bigger birds in half to serve smaller tables, he said.