Thanksgiving turkey sales drop as industry struggles amid the pandemic

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With fewer people allowed in family gatherings amid COVID-19, large turkeys aren’t being included on holiday menus, and turkey farmers are seeing a significant decrease in sales. – Oct 9, 2020

With COVID-19 restrictions at the highest alert in many parts of Quebec, this weekend’s Thanksgiving celebrations will look a lot different.

Family gatherings are limited to only those of the same household in the province’s red zones.

And with fewer people surrounding the dining room table, sales of the iconic holiday staple, the turkey, have decreased compared to last year.

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

As a result of the pandemic, turkey production has seen a drop of about eight per cent across Canada.

In Quebec, the lack of sales has resulted in losses totalling $5.4 million, according to the Poultry Farmers of Quebec.

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Thanksgiving is the second-largest event, after Christmas, in the year for the turkey industry, representing about 39 per cent of all sales.

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“Sales were down before the pandemic and then after, it got worse,” said poultry farmer Joel Leblanc.

Leblanc says he has felt the effects of the pandemic on the market.

“With bars and restaurants closed, the sales are down,” Leblanc said.

Luckily, Leblanc says he does not depend solely on turkey sales, with the majority of his business being chickens.

He is hopeful, however, that his farm will be able to weather the storm and expects sales to slowly stabilize.

Read more: Smaller turkeys, quieter gatherings — How coronavirus is changing Canada’s Thanksgiving

The Poultry Farmers of Quebec say in 2020, six million kilograms of whole turkeys were sold in March and April, a similar amount to previous years, despite the absence of large gatherings due to COVID 19.

However, they have noticed a shift in what is being served on dinner plates.

“The 20-pound turkey isn’t needed this year,” spokesperson Stéphane Barnabé said.

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Smaller turkeys and cuts are desired with fewer mouths to feed, according to Barnabé.

“Production has adapted in recent months to offer smaller whole turkeys and more cuts in the grocery store (breasts, roasts, legs),” he said.

In light of this trend, and with no end in sight to the pandemic, turkey farmers like Leblanc are predicting they will see similar buying habits this coming winter.

He says his 6,500 turkey chicks slated to be ready for Christmas will most likely be smaller as he adjusts to the new demand.

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