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Bird Flu To Blame for Much Higher Prices for Turkey This Thanksgiving

Consumers may have to spend a lot more for Thanksgiving turkeys this year as inflation and shortages caused by the deadly bird flu outbreak trigger surging poultry prices across the country.


Nearly 44 million birds have been wiped out by the highly contagious disease since the beginning of the year, according to the Department of Agriculture. The outbreak has been compared to the 2014-2015 season — which claimed more than 50 million birds and was "arguably the most significant animal health event in U.S. history," according to the USDA.


At least 434 commercial flocks in 39 states have been affected since mid-July, the department said, with the most severely afflicted farms in Minnesota and South Dakota.


U.S. consumers can now expect to pay about $29.92 for a fresh 16-pound turkey and $26.24 for a frozen one, the USDA said in a weekly pricing report. The average cost of breast meat rose to $6.50 a pound this year, compared to less than $2 a pound in 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing market-research firm Urner Barry. Further, the report found that turkey hens — which make up the majority of turkeys served at Thanksgiving — are now 57% more expensive compared to the five-year average.

Though large outbreaks are unusual in summer as bird flu generally doesn't survive hot weather, commercial farms in California have seen a concerning uptick in cases despite the state grappling with recent heat waves


The most severe recent outbreaks were traced to two commercial turkey meat plants in Minnesota, resulting in the loss of nearly 85,000 birds on Sept. 7-8.


“While the timing of this detection is a bit sooner than we anticipated, we have been preparing for a resurgence of the avian influenza we dealt with this spring,” said Dr. Shauna Voss, senior veterinarian with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, in response to one of the outbreaks.


Minnesota is the largest turkey producer in the U.S. — raising about 40 million turkeys each year — or about 18% of all turkeys produced in the country, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.


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