Frozen turkey inventories 24 percent below 3-year average as consumers gobble up supplies

This is a line chart showing the amount of turkey in meat storage, in millions of pounds, in 2020 and 2021, as well as the 2018-20 average.

Remembering to defrost the turkey might not be the only challenge families face as they try to get that perennial centerpiece onto the Thanksgiving table this year. As of August 31, 2021, inventories of frozen whole turkeys and turkey parts were 24 percent lower than 3-year average volumes. Stocks of frozen turkey meat typically follow a seasonal pattern, building throughout the year until the fall, when retailers prepare to meet holiday demand. In 2021, the seasonal build-up was less pronounced than usual, and stock volumes appear to have peaked before starting an earlier-than-normal decline. At the end of August 2021, 428.1 million pounds of turkey meat were in cold storage, a 19-percent decrease from the same month last year, and a decline of about 7 million pounds from the end of July 2021. Stocks are lower partly because production of turkeys is lower than average this year. At 474.2 million pounds, August 2021 turkey production was mostly unchanged from the same time in 2020 but below the 3-year average, in part a result of high feed costs. August placements of turkey chicks, down about 4 percent from the 3-year average, are dampening expectations for both turkey production and stocks. August marks the latest date by which a turkey chick can mature in time to be harvested for Thanksgiving. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, October 2021.

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