Butterball Experiencing Fresh Turkey Shortage

Ahead of Thanksgiving, Butterball LLC is reporting a shortage of some fresh whole turkeys, but retailers and shoppers needn’t worry about going bird-less this holiday.

Although confirming “some shortage of fresh whole turkeys, predominately for turkeys 16 pounds or greater, due to unexpected low weight gains,” Garner, N.C.-based Butterball said it “has ample supply of its frozen whole turkeys of all sizes – whether small, medium or large. Butterball has shipped 100 percent of customer orders of frozen whole turkeys, and products are in distribution across the country.”

The company added, “While we are continuing to evaluate all potential causes” of the shortage, “we are working to remedy the issue and are currently seeing turkey weight gain improvements.” It also “expects to completely fulfill all customer orders of fresh whole turkeys for Christmas.”

No other brands or turkey sizes appear to be affected by the shortage, the National Turkey Federation (NTF) told Progressive Grocer. According to Keith Williams, VP for communications and marketing at Washington, D.C.-based NTF, 85 percent of the turkey market is flash-frozen – which Williams hastened to note is “the same quality as fresh” – with just 15 percent fresh, of which the affected Butterball turkeys are just one “very small section.”

In the meantime, those who usually buy large fresh whole turkeys have options, Butterball emphasized. “If consumers cannot find a Butterball fresh whole turkey in their desired size, they can purchase a Butterball frozen whole turkey for their Thanksgiving meal,” the company suggested. “Depending on the size of their turkey, it typically takes between three to five days to thaw; we suggest thawing in a refrigerator for four hours per every pound of turkey.”

Retailers such as Springfield, Mass.-based Big Y, an independent grocer with 61 stores in Connecticut and Massachusetts, are prepared for the turkey shortfall, however. After being informed by Butterball that its fresh turkey orders, like those of other retailers across the United States, had been halved, Big Y sourced additional turkeys from other suppliers to have enough for its shoppers.

Additionally, to make sure that shoppers will have 16-pound and larger turkeys for the upcoming holiday, Big Y has upped its supply of large frozen Butterball turkeys of 16 pounds or more as an alternative for those who usually buy large fresh Butterball turkeys. The grocer also has plenty of fresh Butterballs under 14 pounds, as well as large fresh turkeys from other brands, including Shady Brook.

Big Y said it would continue to take customer orders for specific turkeys for all types, except for the large fresh Butterballs. In addition to a whole turkey, many of its customers select turkey breast, duck, goose, capon, other fresh turkey parts, or even a fully prepared turkey dinner as additional meal options, the grocer added, noting that it will introduce a Turkey Help Line to offer cooking tips, thawing suggestions, turkey size and selection advice, and other turkey-related questions. The help line will be open from Nov. 21 through Nov. 27.

NTF’s Williams praised Butterball’s honesty regarding the shortage as “good customer relations” and the “sign of a very good-thinking company.”