CENTRAL TEXAS — It's been an American staple for generations: a golden brown turkey at the middle of a Thanksgiving feast.
This season, a few more tables may be lacking a turkey. Holiday traditions continue to take a hit from supply shortages. Grocery stores are having to overcome some hurdles this season to keep that tradition going.
"If I already know ahead of time what we're going to be shorted on, then where else can I go to buy these items so we don't cause an inconvenience to our customers here in this area?" asked Robert Lopez, store director of Jubilee Food Market.
Those are the questions that Lopez has to answer. A recent report from Texas A&M Agrilife states that turkey production saw a slight decline in 2021. In addition to the lower supply, stores have had to deal with labor shortages and transportation issues from their sources. That all leads to rising poultry prices. The national average is $1.35 per pound this season, compared to $1.14 in 2020.
"Right now because I was told that they could be very limited, or they are available, they're going to be very high dollar," said Lopez.
Lately, Lopez has been coordinating with multiple distributors so he can get the supplies he needs. He says he's been well-aware of the nationwide shortage problems and has been trying to schedule shipments far in advance to compensate.
Finding the perfect turkey for your Thanksgiving meal won't be impossible but you may have to look a little harder to find the right bird, and your wallet will likely feel lighter. Donna Palmer says she's going to be browsing the aisles early after seeing how shortages impacted her candy-making business last month.
"They're on backorder, so we have to wait for a lot of things," said Palmer. "So for Christmas and Thanksgiving, I'm definitely going to order early, so that I have what I need."
Palmer says she won't be preparing a turkey this year as she's a vegetarian, but she's part of a growing number of people that are turning to foods other than turkey for the main course.
"I'm seeing where we're selling pot roast, steaks, any kind of beef product. I'm seeing more of that than I am of turkey," Lopez said. "They don't want to wait until the last minute to see if turkeys will be available."
If you've been thinking about exploring a different entree for Thanksgiving, this year might as well be the year to try it. When asked what she would cook if she was feeling adventurous this holiday, tourist Alanna Lynem had a unique reply.
"I love salmon. So I would do some sort of fish dish. Seafood isn't usually served on Thanksgiving," said Lynem.
The turkey tradition isn't in danger of dying any time soon, but it's the latest in a long list of struggles brought about by supply shortages. If you're making a trip to be with family for Thanksgiving dinner this year, don't be too surprised if the centerpiece of the meal isn't the classic bird.