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  • Writer's pictureMike von Massow

The Turkey in the Coalmine?

Updated: Oct 12, 2020


We continue to see rising new COVID case numbers in Canada as the long predicted second wave washes over us. Governments have asked Canadians to maintain household bubbles when celebrating Thanksgiving in order to minimize the risk of significant transmission. It remains to be seen whether Canadians follow these rules or at least the degree to which they bend them.

Case numbers in the coming weeks will be an indication of how well we did at controlling the spread of COVID over the long weekend holiday. There may be a more timely indicator of the degree of compliance with respect to minimizing the size and scope of Thanksgiving celebrations - the sale of turkeys.

The number and size of turkeys sold during this week is likely to be lower. How much lower it is relative to previous years will be an indicator of change in behaviour by Canadians for Thanksgiving. Households having smaller celebrations may scale back the size of turkey they buy (or try to buy). Some families may choose not to buy a turkey at all and switch to a smaller roast chicken or some other protein. An evaluation of turkey sales will likely provide a good predictor or case count trends in the next 7-10 days. Alternately, another indicator of smaller gatherings may be google searches for turkey recipes.

These changes in demand will likely cause disruption for the turkey industry. Turkey production decisions are made months in advance for a significant spike in demand during Thanksgiving. While there may have been some adjustment in forecasts arising from the COVID pandemic, there was likely some optimism in the industry that we would be able to gather for the holiday. The number and size distribution of turkey production for Thanksgiving is set early as chicks have to be ordered and turkeys grow for several months (varies depending on final size) to be ready for processing and shipping for holiday. If the order patterns change, the supply chain (retailers, distributors and processors) may be short some product (smaller turkeys) and long other product (large turkeys). If we see significant and ongoing price reductions for turkey (fresh and frozen) in the next week, we might be able to feel some relief that everyone followed the guidance and reduced the risk of broader transmission.


Recommended citation format: von Massow, Michael. "The Turkey in the Coalmine?". Food Focus Guelph (99), Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Guelph, DATE.


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