There’s a Turkey Shortage—Here’s How to Minimize Its Impact on Your Holidays

Your Thanksgiving turkey may cost you more—or be a little harder to find—this year.

<p>Elena_Danileiko/Getty Images</p>

Elena_Danileiko/Getty Images

First it was toilet paper and rental cars, then sriracha and avocados. But the latest item to come up in short supply may be the most sentimental—the holiday turkey. And that’s causing prices for the big bird to go sky high, with the price of turkey up to a record high of $1.99 per pound, up 73 percent from last year, according to CNBC.

That doesn't mean you can't have a fabulous Thanksgiving feast—even if you have to get a little creative with your menu plans. Check out the story behind the 2022 turkey shortage, and learn what you can do to make your feast fabulous (with or without a Thanksgiving turkey).

Why there’s a turkey shortage

You can blame one of the biggest outbreaks of avian flu this year for the smaller supply of turkeys available. More than 47 million birds (including turkeys and chickens) died or were culled to help reduce the spread.

The overall turkey supply is down about five percent, with a big reduction in the larger tom turkeys (down 13 percent), made up for by an increase in the number of turkey hens available (up about 12 percent), according to Texas A&M University. That means that even though it's a small-ish hit overall, you may find fewer of the super big birds that you need if you're feeding a crowd.

And you can thank the reduced supply (and those old laws of supply and demand) for the big price hike.

How to deal with the turkey shortage

You may have to be more creative and flexible with this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, especially if the price increase bites a little too hard into your holiday budget. Try these ideas to make your feast fabulous (with or without the bird).

Shop around a bit more for the best price

You may still find those “free turkey with large purchase” offers at your local supermarket, but if not, make sure to shop around—you may still find places that offer a lower price as a “loss leader” to get you to buy the rest of your meal staples there. One tip: Check out meal kit companies like Blue Apron and online meat suppliers like Butcher Box, which are offering lower prices (or even free birds) with membership. Blue Apron, for instance, locked in their supply (and lower prices) nearly a year ago, according to John Adler, vice president of culinary.


Lock in your turkey early

If Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a turkey, clear some room in your freezer and purchase your bird now, to beat the pre-holiday rush and ensure you’ve got the turkey you want.

Switch up the star of the show

Sure, turkey has become synonymous with Thanksgiving, but the first feast probably didn’t even feature this bird. Surviving accounts of the meal suggest that venison, “wildfowl” (which may or may not include turkeys—and was more likely to be goose, duck, or the now-extinct passenger pigeon), and corn made up the meal, according to the Smithsonian, perhaps alongside seafood like clams and lobster.

So go ahead and suggest that you kick it old-school style with one of these alternative meats, or another favorite—ham or roast beef could still give you that substantial “holiday roast” vibe and match well with the traditional Thanksgiving sides.

"You can achieve the same show-stopping effect by opting for smaller, faster options, such as cornish game hens," Adler says. "These can also be brined, stuffed and roasted—just like a turkey, but will save you money and time."

Make the turkey less of a focus

Let the side dishes shine, and opt for a smaller bird (or two), a simple turkey breast—or even just the turkey legs. "There are often a surplus of turkey legs, which are incredibly delicious slow roasted or braised," Adler says. (We have an epic turkey leg recipe for that!)

Or use it in a different recipe, such as a turkey pot pie, lasagna, or tacos. "Pot pie is an excellent and economical way to still have the familiar and comforting feeling of turkey on the table without having to commit to a whole bird," Adler says.

By reducing the amount you buy, you can reduce the impact of the turkey shortage on your Thanksgiving feast budget.

Go vegetarian

There are turkey-like options made of tofu, seitan, or other vegetarian proteins, but you can also opt for substantial vegetarian dishes that’ll be the perfect centerpiece for your Thanksgiving feast.

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