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‘People are hungry for a holiday’: Ontario farmer sees higher demand for small turkeys

Click to play video: '‘People are hungry for a holiday’ says Ontario farmer who sees a higher demand for smaller turkeys this year' ‘People are hungry for a holiday’ says Ontario farmer who sees a higher demand for smaller turkeys this year
WATCH: With the Thanksgiving weekend approaching, health officials are asking people to rethink their traditional gatherings and that's impacting those who produce food for the dinner table – Oct 8, 2020

With the Thanksgiving weekend approaching, health officials are asking people to rethink their traditional gatherings and that’s impacting those who produce what ends up on the dinner table.

“Folks have asked for smaller portions, half turkeys, pieces of turkeys and smaller birds because they’re having smaller gatherings,” said Cory Priest, who owns Thorpe Farms in Odessa, Ont.

Priest, who has been operating his farm for close to a decade, says they’ve raised 50 turkeys solely for this weekend.

“Our average size would be an 18-24 pound bird. This year we scaled back a little bit. Our average size will be 15-16 pounds.”

Read more: Keep Thanksgiving local to help prevent jump in COVID-19, says KFL&A Public Health

As the coronavirus hit Canada before Easter, Priest says people have been waiting a long time for a festive dinner.

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With turkey being the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving dinners and celebrations being scaled back, the industry has had to adjust to a new normal during COVID-19.

Brian Ricker, chair of Turkey Farmers of Ontario says COVID-19 has decreased the amount of turkey needed by restaurants, grocery stores, and delis right across the province.

“Our processors have told us that they need a lot less turkey than they used to,” Ricker says. “So we have had to cut production here in Ontario by 17 per cent.”

According to Turkey Farmers of Canada, 15.4 million kilograms of turkeys were sold within the six weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, which accounts for about 39 per cent of sales for the year.

Read more: Scott Thompson: You already know what a coronavirus Thanksgiving will be. We had it in Easter

Despite the decrease in demand for larger birds, people still want turkey on the table this weekend.

As several local grocery stores told Global News, this is one of their busiest times of the year.

Priest says despite the safety restrictions and down-sized celebrations, he remains hopeful that people will hold onto traditions — like a turkey dinner — even if there aren’t as many seated at the table.

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–With files from Katherine Ward

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