Turkey farmers feel effects of smaller planned Thanksgiving gatherings

Could the pandemic change the forecast for this year's Thanksgiving? Millions of Americans are expected to scale back, leaving grocers and farmers trying to figure out what that means for sales.

For turkey farmers like Paul Hahs who runs his family's farm Red Gate Farms Poultry in Conroe, when it comes to his Turkey sales, Thanksgiving is the one day they wait for all year long.

It's usually their big day. This year, there is nothing big about it.

"At the last family gathering, we tried to practice social distancing," Christopher Ashford recalled. "But how to do you social distance at a family gathering, you know?"

When we think Thanksgiving, we think big, but COVID-19 is forcing a downsize.

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"With all that stuff going on like that, you just can't take no risk," Nicanor Pubela said.

According to Consumer Reports, a recent survey found grocers are pushing for smaller turkeys and pre-made meals as families opt for smaller gatherings due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The problem is, for local farmers like Hahs, turkey farming is something that's planned out well before the holidays.

"Typically, we start raising our turkeys in July. That way, they are ready the week before Thanksgiving, or the week of Thanksgiving rather. This year, we didn't start getting orders until about last week. I had sold three turkeys up until last week," Hahs said.

Paul says Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two days he makes money on his turkeys. This year, they aren't even doing a Christmas batch, which is a big cut into their regular revenue, especially since local turkeys cost more per pound compared to frozen, store-bought turkeys.

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"Ours run $8 a pound, fresh turkeys, never frozen. Store-bought is significantly cheaper, but it's also a big difference of what goes into each bird," Hahs said.

The average cost of a frozen, store-bought turkey is $1.50 per pound.

With the changes, Walmart says it will offer more turkey breast for families who don't want or need a whole bird.

Paul says now, more than ever, is the time to support your local farmers and local businesses.

He says these are the people in the community who care about you, and they need help to continue their livelihoods.

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