Tough turkey: Your Thanksgiving bird may be pricier this year
Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Nov. 15. I’m Susanne Rust, a Bay Area-based environment reporter. And I can’t believe we’re nine days out from Thanksgiving, which has gotten me thinking about food — in particular, turkey.
About six weeks ago, I wrote a story about a highly pathogenic avian flu that has made its way across the country and down the continent. About 50 million birds have died or been culled since the virus first appeared in North America last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the toll is likely to surpass the 2015 record of 50.5 million birds, as about twice as many states are affected this time around.
The flu has hit turkey farms — so, depending upon whether you’re hoping for a fresh, free-range turkey or a frozen one, it could also affect your Thanksgiving meal (or at least your wallet).
Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation (and a former newspaper reporter), said about 300,000 of the turkeys targeted for Thanksgiving have been culled. That’s roughly 10% of the 3 million California turkeys normally delivered this time of year — which is significant but shouldn’t stop anybody who wants to eat a turkey on Thanksgiving.
“It’s important that people reach out to their supermarket if they definitely want a fresh, free-range California bird, because those go first,” Mattos said.
Prices for fresh turkeys are likely to be about 80% higher than last year, he said, but bargains can probably be found for frozen turkeys. Supermarkets discount frozen birds this time of year to get shoppers into their stores, he said.
Finally, just a note about organic turkeys: Because of the avian flu, biosecurity is high right now at commercial farms. That means all birds are kept indoors.
“One of the qualifications for ‘organic’ is that the birds are free range, that they have access to the environment,” Mattos said. “Well, because of the bird flu — nationally and locally — that’s been altered to where birds can be grown indoors now. Just this time of year to get this through this whole flu season.”
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
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Morrissey abruptly ends concert because it was cold: The 63-year-old former frontman of the iconic ’80s pop-new wave band the Smiths abruptly ended his show at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre on Saturday night. Thirty minutes into the second night of his “Live in Concert” tour, he stormed offstage moments after complaining about the chilly mid-50s temperatures. A band member returned to the stage and apologized to jeers. San Francisco Chronicle
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Karen Bass ‘on track to win’ L.A. mayor’s race: Monday’s updated vote tally has the congresswoman moving closer to victory, leading real estate developer Rick Caruso by more than 4 percentage points nearly a week after polls closed. There are probably thousands of votes left to be counted, but experts said they struggled to see a path for Caruso to close the gap. Los Angeles Times
Reelected, Newsom wants to set the record straight on California: Gov. Gavin Newsom hates what he hears about the state on Fox News, where the image of California is “crime-ridden and overpriced with homeless encampments filling its sidewalks,” The Times’ Taryn Luna reports. Newsom is hoping the policies and programs he adopted in his first term — such as a new system to force treatment for people who are severely mentally ill and drug addicted — will begin to “address the affordability and quality-of-life problems in California today and lay the groundwork for a better and more equitable state in the future.” Observers expect his legislative agenda to be slimmer this term, with more emphasis on the implementation of what he’s accomplished. Los Angeles Times
Drama behind the election of California’s newest Assembly speaker: Times columnist George Skelton tells a colorful, intrigue-filled story about the machinations that took place to put Assemblyman Robert Rivas, 42, a San Benito County Democrat, in charge next year. Clashing egos, political alliances, closed-door meetings — it’s all in there. Los Angeles Times.
Expensive “yeses” for failed gambling measure: Just 17% of voters supported Proposition 27 — the failed ballot measure that sought to make online sports gambling legal in California. When all the votes are tallied, each “yes” is likely to have cost the gambling industry roughly $100. Compare that with the less than $3 per yes vote spent on Proposition 1, which cemented abortion rights in the state Constitution. Mercury News
McCarthy’s uncertain future: With control of the House still undecided, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) is struggling for support to become speaker if Republicans gain control as expected. Nobody has the 218 votes they need, and McCarthy is facing pushback from the far-right flank of his own party. New York Times
CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING
Fewer minor traffic encounters for LAPD after new rules: Since the LAPD adopted new rules of engagement regarding traffic stops — no more using minor infractions, such as a broken taillight, as grounds to justify a search unless the officer thinks a more serious crime is afoot — the number of such stops has dramatically dropped. As the stops became more purposeful, there was a slight uptick in the frequency with which contraband was discovered. The Times’ analysis suggests “police can strike an effective balance between keeping the public safe and respecting the rights of individuals,” Libor Jany and Ben Poston report. Los Angeles Times
Yasiel Puig will plead guilty in connection to an illegal gambling ring: The former Dodgers outfielder has agreed to plead guilty to lying to federal agents investigating an illegal sports-betting operation run by Wayne Nix, a former minor-league baseball player who lives in Newport Beach. Puig racked up debt of more than $280,000 with Nix’s operation and went on to place hundreds of bets on tennis, football and basketball, according to the plea agreement. Los Angeles Times
Jennifer Siebel Newsom takes the stand against Harvey Weinstein: In her testimony to a jury in the fallen Hollywood mogul’s sexual assault trial, Siebel Newsom wept as she shared graphic details of what she recalled as a violent rape in a Beverly Hills hotel suite 17 years ago, when she was a struggling actor. “This was hell,” she told jurors in downtown Los Angeles as her husband, Gov. Gavin Newsom, waited in a room down the hall. Los Angeles Times
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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Flu season is straining the healthcare system in SoCal: After nearly three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, influenza has come roaring back to grab some headlines. For the week that ended Nov. 5, 25% of tests at L.A. County labs were positive for the flu — well above the levels at this time in each of the last five years. Healthcare officials say the outbreak is straining a system that is simultaneously stressed by an outbreak of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and the coronavirus. Underscoring the danger, California public health officials on Monday reported the season’s first death of a child under 5 due to flu and RSV. Los Angeles Times
UC strike disrupts classes: Roughly 48,000 unionized academic workers across the University of California’s 10 campuses walked off the job Monday morning, calling for better pay and benefits. The workers include teaching assistants, postdoctoral scholars, graduate student researchers, tutors and fellows, as well as workers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Just weeks before final exams, the strike has disrupted scheduled classes, and university officials are calling for a third-party mediator to be brought in. Los Angeles Times
New cultural district for Pacific Islanders: On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to adopt legislation creating the city’s 10th cultural district — this one recognizing the Pacific Islander community. If passed, the site will be in a southern neighborhood bordering Daly City. San Francisco Chronicle
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Los Angeles: 72, sunny San Diego: 67, sunny San Francisco: 63, sunny San Jose: 66, sunny Fresno: 64, sunny Sacramento: 68, sunny
Today’s California memory is from Wendy Aldwyn:
Where the Dude and elephant seals lounge, Disneyland sparkles, Bakersfield bakes, and Morro Bay whispers. The choking traffic and Huntington Gardens. Colossal trees and banana slugs. Beach and desert and mist and Highway 1. Whales waving and spouting a greeting. Napa Valley calm. Serene volcanoes. Unwaveringly beautiful weather, except for catastrophic natural disasters. I’ve left my heart in California!
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