Another Year of Tight Turkey Supplies
Last year, we wrote that turkey production and supplies were tight. Higher food prices due to inflation remain a concern this holiday season – and the limited availability of turkey is a lurking factor. While poultry producers have faced challenges such as avian flu, USDA recently reassured Americans that there are plenty of turkeys to go around.
The USDA reports monthly turkey production in the U.S. (Figure 1). It won’t come as much of a surprise, but turkey production is very seasonal. The black diamonds denote October production, which is generally the annual peak. These diamonds also help us track year-over-year trends. Since 2018, turkey production has trended lower. And while the October 2022 data weren’t available when this post was written, it may be the lowest production observed in eight years. Just this summer, July production slipped below 400 million pounds, the only time that’s happened going back to 2015.
It’s not just turkey production that’s contracted. Figure 2 reveals good-news and bad-news headlines that can be made for the 2022 data. First, turkey in cold storage is only slightly lower than a year ago. At 395 million pounds as of October 2022, storage is only 4.8% lower this year. The bad news, however, is that 2022 inventories were the lowest for October going back to 2010.
How much does the holiday season affect U.S. turkey consumption? In general terms, turkey consumption jumps 50%.
This estimate is far from perfect, but if you line up the monthly production data (Figure 1) and the storage data (Figure 2), you can estimate turkey consumption – or, more accurately, disappearance. Figure 3 shows these data. The seasonality in both production and storage results in implied consumption peaking in October and November, right ahead of the holiday season.
Wrapping It Up
Again in 2022, tight supplies will affect holiday menus and budgets. However, the data show this has been part of a long-term contraction in turkey production and storage. In both cases, 2022 activity is among the lowest in recent memory.
Seasonality is a significant factor in U.S. turkey. Regarding consumption, the data imply the holiday seasons result in a roughly 50% increase in activity for two months of the year.