Poultry prices causing turkey troubles for food banks

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 5:55 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Turkey is the talk of the town on Thanksgiving, but many are talking about inflation and the price of purchasing poultry.

The USDA says the price of whole bird turkey is sitting at $1.99 per pound. This time last year, it was $1.15.

That price jump may not seem big, but it’s actually a 73% increase.

And?

That price increase is trickling down and impacting local food banks.

Typically, leaders with Community Harvest Food Bank buy turkeys 8 months in advance and pay a bargain price of about $0.79 per pound.

Community Harvest President & CEO Carmen Cumberland says “We noticed early on that we were going to have struggles. So, the best deal we could get was in Canada where we could pay $1.09 per pound per turkey, but it was going to cost $7,000 for shipping.”

Cumberland says that means no whole turkeys for Community Harvest or their partners this year.

They bought frozen turkey breasts to give away, instead.

One of CHFB’s partners, the Human Agricultural CO-OP, is the site each year for a frozen turkey giveaway.

This year? The folks at the CO-OP say they have to pivot.

“We’re going to do meals, chicken and two sides, but we’re fundraising for children’s coats, hats, gloves, and to assist us with the food as well.”

We’ve been reporting that inflation is causing higher prices at the grocery store, and now, that would include the price of turkeys.

But, are there other reasons for poultry prices flying high?

Allen County Purdue Extension Office’s Agriculture Educator, James Wolff, explains “We’ve been seeing rising prices in corn, which is an input because turkeys eat corn. We’ve had Avian Influenza outbreaks, which have caused producers to have to reduce their flock sizes, get rid of flocks.”

Locally, there aren’t many turkey producers, but there are some small farms.

Wolff says even those owners are having to navigate rising prices and people purchasing their product.

“If they can’t find a balance there, that’s when they start shifting their business operations to other endeavors that they’re able to make money on,” Wolff said.

To make things worse, demand is as high as ever. Cumberland says fewer donations are coming in to Community Harvest.

Last year, she says they spent $100,000 on products.

With donations down and prices up this year, they spent $1,000,000.

Cumberland says the number of people in need has increased to peak COVID pandemic levels, explaining “Would we love to everybody get a turkey for thanksgiving? Absolutely, but again, this is a sign of the times right now and we have to do what we have to do to ensure that our clients have a holiday mean.”

To help Community Harvest Food Bank, click here.

To help Human Agricultural CO-OP, learn how on their Facebook page.