Price of favored poultry will be higher but still the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving celebrations
It is the month before Christmas, and for most people visions of turkey are dancing through their heads.
Area residents are not ashamed of following tradition and tend to serve turkey on Thanksgiving, according to area grocers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that a turkey feast is likely to cost a little more this year.
Government sources say turkey production is down 3.3% from last year, although that still means the nation’s farmers have produced 4.2 billion pounds of the birds in the first nine months of the year.
Lower cold-storage holdings of whole turkeys have placed upward pressure on prices, according to the USDA, with the average wholesale market price for a frozen turkey at $1.16 per pound — 9% higher than last year.
Fear not, turkey lovers, because local meat shops and grocery stores still have plenty of birds to go around.
“Everyone wants a fresh bird because of the flavor, but you can’t beat the frozen birds for price,” said Glenn Baumann, head of the meat department at Sanfilippo Sentry Foods in Port Washington.
The grocery store is currently offering frozen turkey for as low as 69 cents a pound with a separate $25 purchase.
Baumann said local shoppers have a preference for big birds when planning their holiday gatherings.
“People want birds 18 pounds and up so they can have plenty of meat for leftovers,” he said.
For those who insist on fresh turkey, special orders can be taken for birds as large as 26 pounds.
“If you are buying a fresh turkey, you probably don’t want to buy it more than five days before Thanksgiving. That is why we are so busy the weekend before Thanksgiving,” Baumann said.
He said local shoppers prefer Jennie-O turkeys, whether they are frozen or fresh.
There is no better place to talk turkey than Bernie’s Fine Meats, 119 N. Franklin St., Port Washington.
Owner Steve Bennett said the shop is coming into the home stretch for discriminating turkey shoppers.
Overall turkey prices at the store are up about 7% from last year, Bennett said.
Part of that can be blamed on the market impact of supply and demand.
Bennett said his supply of free-range birds, which he gets from a hobby farmer in Plymouth, is less than usual.
“We normally get 20 to 25 turkeys from him, but this year he could only get us 13,” he said.
The cost of free-range birds is about $5 a pound, but Bennett said there is a marked difference in flavor.
“They have a totally different flavor. The white meat tastes like dark meat,” Bennett said.
The shop expects to sell hundreds of all-natural birds, which have none of the injected additives some breeders use to pump up a birds weight.
All-natural birds sell for about half the cost of free-range turkeys.
“These birds are never frozen, and customers feel they are worth the extra cost,” Bennett said.
He said turkey is the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving celebrations, but they are not a big profit item for the meat shop.
“There is not a lot of money to be made from turkeys. This will be our 10th Thanksgiving at the store, and it just feels good just to be part of so many family gatherings,” Bennett said.
“It is not always about dollars and cents.”
Don’t plan on picking up a fresh turkey at Saukville Meats, thanks to the demands of deer hunting season.
“We shut down our fresh meat operation during deer season,” meat cutter Mark Blau said.
“We are just so busy processing deer, we don’t have the time or space to offer fresh meats.”
As of this week, the shop has processed 280 white-tail deer culled during the bow-hunting season. That number is certain to soar after the gun season starts this weekend.
One last piece of trivia from the USDA. The United States is expected to consume 15.6 pounds of turkey per person in 2014.
Our advice is not to eat all of that in one sitting on Thanksgiving day.
Image information: MEAT HANDLER Bonnie Keller said there are plenty of choice frozen turkeys still available for Thanksgiving feasts at Sanfilippo Sentry Foods in Port Washington. Photo by Mark Jaeger