We kick off the holiday season paying more for our Thanksgiving meals this year. We can thank multiple factors for the price hikes. A major cause is highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), or more commonly known as Bird Flu, which is responsible for the depopulation of 5.4 million turkeys (2.5% of all turkeys), according to the USDA Economic Research Service.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service explains how “Wild birds can be infected with HPAI and show no signs of illness. They can carry the disease to new areas when migrating, potentially exposing domestic poultry to the virus.”

Turkey prices are currently at record levels, resulting from the combination of tighter supplies caused by HPAI, higher demand, inflation, and increased demands on U.S. food systems.” The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) states.  “The national average price for a frozen, Grade A, whole young hen, 8-16 pounds, posted a record price of $1.72 per pound on Sept. 3, 2022. That’s 20% higher than the same time last year when the price was $1.44 per pound. Fresh boneless, skinless tom turkey breasts reached a record high of $6.70 per pound on Sept. 17, 112% higher than the same time in 2021 when prices were $3.16 per pound. The previous record high price was $5.88 per pound on Nov. 21, 2015, during the 2015 HPAI outbreak.”

AFBF concludes that turkey production is forecast to be lower still in 2023. Amanda Palme, with Food Bank of the Southern Tier, says that requests for Turkeys this year are already approximately 2,000 more than they were last year. That number is projected to grow.