Less Turkey Production Drives Prices Higher as Holidays Approach

Updated: 10/22/2013 4:30 PM KSTP.com By: Katherine Johnson

Turkeys being raised for market are some picky eaters. For them, it's only the best Minnesota-grown feed, which eats away at farmer Mike Langmo's profits.

"It's just harder to cover your cost," he said.

Demand for corn across the country is so widespread that instead of increasing the operating budget, farms throughout Minnesota, like Lakewood Turkey Incorporated in Eden Valley, are forced to cut turkey production back as much as 10 percent.

"It means less income for us," said Langmo.

This year, Langmo and his processing company will share a hit totaling $60,000 to $70,000.

"My expenses will stay the same, except I'll have half the income for the first 3-4 flocks out of the year," said Langmo.

Those costs trickle up the food chain to the consumer, too.

"We've already seen that," said Langmo. "There's been maybe a 10 percent increase in food prices and you're seeing that right in the grocery store right now."

"Like any business, you need to have the profitability in order to continue to do business," said Steve Olson, Executive Director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.

Olson says, at least for Thanksgiving, prices could drop because it's the bird that lures you into the store.

"Thanksgiving is unique because grocery stores want to attract customers into their grocery stores so they use turkey as what we call a loss leader which means they're selling it below the price that they paid for it in order to draw people in," said Olson.

But supply and demand will play a heavy hand because when there are 10 percent fewer turkeys in the barn that means 10 percent less turkey on store shelves and, eventually, dining tables during the holidays.