Butterball turkeys trot to trough to add pounds for holidays
Thanksgiving in the U.S. promises to be more bountiful this year than last as Butterball LLC turkeys stuff themselves with feed to fatten up, boosting supplies of the holiday staple.
Bill Klump, the chief marketing officer of Garner, North Carolina-based Butterball, the largest U.S. turkey producer, said he anticipates “no problems” in supplies of large, fresh whole birds this year for the holiday season.
In 2013, the company reported “limited availability” of fresh birds two weeks before Thanksgiving on Nov. 28 as turkeys failed to pack on the pounds on some farms. Butterball had “ample” supplies of frozen whole turkeys and shipped 100 percent of customer orders.
“What we ended up with were the same number of heads, but slightly lighter birds last year,” Klump said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “This year, everything is absolutely perfect. Retailers are taking inventories as we speak and starting to put things into their distribution systems.”
Butterball is the largest U.S. turkey producer with annual output of about 1.3 billion pounds, according to WATT PoultryUSA rankings. This year, Thanksgiving is on Nov. 27.
Cattle and hog futures in Chicago have climbed to records this year, boosting costs for beef and ham while spurring demand for cheaper poultry.
Retail whole, frozen turkey prices in August averaged $1.604 a pound, down 2.3 percent from July and 1.2 percent from a year earlier, Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed Wednesday. Costs for ham, pork chops, ground beef and boneless sirloin steak rose to records.
Beef and pork prices will rise 6.5 to 7.5 percent this year, the most of any food group, while poultry will gain 3 to 4 percent, the USDA estimates.
“Right now is a really advantageous time for the turkey protein relative to other proteins in terms of consumer value,” Klump of Butterball said.
U.S. turkey output in 2014 is forecast to fall 0.1 percent to 5.726 billion pounds from a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week.
In July, the average weight at slaughter was 30.1 pounds, up 1.1 percent from a year earlier, USDA data show. After hatching, turkeys typically reach maturity in four to five months, fed mainly on corn and soybean meal, according to the agency.
The National Turkey Federation said about 85 percent of sales at Thanksgiving in 2013 were frozen.
With assistance from Shruti Date Singh in Chicago.