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There Could be a Shortage of This Essential Food Ahead of Thanksgiving, Experts Say

Grocery stores are currently scrambling to figure out how to manage.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommendations telling Americans how to celebrate holidays safely, even though they are still about three months away. This is one reason why gatherings may look different this year because of safety and preventing the virus from spreading, just like in 2020. Another has to do with the cuisine, especially for Thanksgiving. The meal may be missing a centerpiece.

Related: 100 Easiest Recipes You Can Make

The most popular size of turkey for Thanksgiving feasts is 14 pounds because it feeds about 14 people. The smaller family celebrations of last year (when the CDC recommendation for family gatherings was 10 people or less) required smaller turkeys. This, combined with factory shutdowns due to COVID-19, the tight labor market, rising corn and grain prices, and the fact that farms haven't been able to develop 14-pound turkeys fast enough, means there is now a turkey shortage, the New York Post reports.


"It's a very precise schedule to get the turkey to the size of 14 pounds or less," Daniel Romanoff, the president of meat distributor Nebraskaland, told the news outlet. "And the plants weren't able to keep up with that size."

Now grocery stores are seeing their 14-pound turkey supply slow to as much as 50%, while some, like Morton Williams in New York City, won't get any turkey in stock below 16 pounds. The news is forcing all of them to scramble to find solutions.

These could look like 20-pound turkeys broken up into parts, allowing customers to choose which ones they want. But it also will mean there will be more frozen birds available compared to fresh ones. These require more planning to cook—defrosting takes about six days, and so will require planning. In fact, this is exactly when you should buy your Thanksgiving turkey.

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Amanda McDonald
Amanda has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in digital journalism from Loyola University Chicago. Read more about Amanda