Bird Flu May Affect Turkey Market Come Thanksgiving

Following the worst-ever U.S. outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, supplies of whole turkeys may be limited when Thanksgiving rolls around.

Roughly 7.8 million turkeys died this year as a result of the outbreak, according to Reuters. There has also been a drop in poults (young turkey or fowl being raised for food), whose numbers are down eight percent compared to last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Poults who are developed in May head to slaughter between August to October, depending on whether the birds are male or female. Amanda Martin, senior analyst with Indiana-based Express Markets Inc. Analytics, said to Reuters there is a May and June deadline to place heavy tom poults to develop so they can be ready to be sold as whole birds come November.

"To see that it is down ... makes me think, that's probably going to mean the big, whole birds for Thanksgiving are going to be extremely hard to come by," Martin told Reuters.

Experts don't all agree that this outbreak will affect turkey sales, as some credit the drop in placement numbers to "bunching effects" in the production of turkeys. National Turkey Federation spokesman Keith Williams also told Reuters that most people buy frozen turkeys, and said that those consumed this upcoming November were slaughtered before the bird flu struck the upper Midwest. 

Still, bird flu has already made an impact on the market. U.S companies are importing eggs from Europe for the first time in over a decade to combat rising prices of domestic eggs due to the virus. States have even declared a state of emergency due to bird flu, so seeing the virus affect turkey prices come Thanksgiving isn't difficult to imagine.