The turkey harvest weathered the summer drought without serious impact, so the Thanksgiving supply of plump gobblers should be adequate nationwide, producers and industry analysts said Thursday.
Turkey production should be up 2% to 246 million turkeys this year, said David Goldenberg, director of industry relations for the National Turkey Federation, which represents most of the nation’s 3,000 turkey producers.
He said the United States produced 240 million turkeys in 1987, which was a 16% increase over 1986.
The drought’s primary impact on the turkey harvest was to raise the price of grain used to fatten the birds, he said.
The federation, based in Reston, Va., believes that the drought-related increase in grain prices will narrow the profit margin for farmers, Goldenberg said.
A northeast Ohio turkey grower, Jack Gooding, manager of Barth Farms at Poland, said turkeys can survive summer heat if kept in ventilated, shaded areas. He said the drought may have helped produce large turkeys.
“The drought helped develop a better bird; they do better in sort of a drier climate,” he said. “California and Texas birds always seem to be a little more plump. Now this year we had ideal growing conditions.”
Rocco Inc. of Harrisonburg, Va., which produces 13 million turkeys a year, detected reduced egg production by hens during the drought, spokeswoman Patricia May said.
The reduced egg production should not be reflected in fewer maturing turkeys until after Thanksgiving because it takes up to four months for a turkey to grow to market size, she said.
Goldenberg said many farms were selling turkeys wholesale for 83 cents a pound, compared to 57 cents a pound last year. He also said many supermarkets across the nation would follow a tradition of selling turkeys at a loss during the holiday season to attract shoppers with big food orders for Thanksgiving.
Goldenberg said America’s per-capita turkey consumption increased from 13.4 pounds in 1986 to 15.1 pounds last year and an estimated 16.5 pounds this year.
He said the drought slowed the industry’s recent growth rate because some producers scaled back production amid higher grain prices.