The price per pound for an eight-pound hen has increased from $1.15 last year to $1.47 this year, according to data from the Department of Agriculture, with residents of the northeastern United States preparing to pay the most on average. An outbreak of the avian flu has impacted flocks in 43 states and 304 counties, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Some of the turkeys that are being raised right now for Thanksgiving may not have the full amount of time to get to 20 pounds,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on a call with reporters, according to a report from Axios.
Soaring costs of living have impacted Americans attempting to celebrate Thanksgiving and other holidays over the past two years. The American Farm Bureau Federation announced last November that the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner had increased 14% from the previous year.
Vilsack added that families should still be able to purchase smaller birds fairly easily. “I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about whether or not you can carve your turkey on Thanksgiving,” he continued. “It’s going to be there, maybe smaller, but it’ll be there.”
Americans consume 46 million turkeys each Thanksgiving, according to data from the University of Illinois. Roughly the same number of poultry have been impacted by the avian flu outbreak.
Poultry prices have increased 9% between September 2021 and September 2022, according to the most recent price level data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall food prices have increased more than 11%.
Inflation and supply chain issues have rocked the economy as Americans prepare to vote in the midterm elections. Polls consistently show that voters have their eyes on the economy and cost of living more than any other issue. One survey from ABC News and The Washington Post found that 84% of voters identify the economy as their top concern, while the Republicans lead the Democrats by a double-digit margin concerning trust in handling the economy.
President Joe Biden has faced criticism for deflecting responsibility on inflation and, more recently, claiming that his policy agenda provided relief to the crisis. The commander-in-chief has underwater approval ratings on all of the issues Americans are prioritizing ahead of the elections, from the environment and international trade to immigration and the economy.
As with other industries, the agricultural sector has been impacted by pervasive labor shortages. One proposal, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, would permit the Department of Homeland Security to grant certified agricultural worker status to illegal immigrants who have completed a salient amount of farm labor. The legislation would also allow migrants and their dependents to “apply for lawful permanent resident status after meeting various requirements, including performing a certain amount of agricultural labor for a number of years.”
Continued negotiations between national railroad companies and labor unions have also threatened agricultural supply chains. Ahead of a possible strike two months ago, some railroads ceased shipping agricultural products, leading to fears that some producers would need to cull livestock.