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No, the price of a whole turkey hasn’t nearly doubled since 2019

Yes, you’re probably paying more for a turkey this year than two years ago. But headlines claiming those prices have “nearly doubled” nationwide aren’t accurate.

If you have been to your local grocer to purchase a turkey ahead of Thanksgiving, you may have noticed the price of a whole turkey seems a little higher this year - or a lot higher. 

Multiple news outlets claim the price of a whole turkey has nearly doubled since 2019, and some people on social media shared screenshots of a news report that claimed an average 16-pound turkey now costs more than $55.  

THE QUESTION

Have whole turkey prices nearly doubled since 2019?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, the price of a whole turkey hasn’t nearly doubled since 2019, but prices are higher than they were two years ago. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and an expert with the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, turkey prices have increased by more than 10%, but nowhere close to 100%.  

WHAT WE FOUND

Steve Reed, an economist at the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, told VERIFY their data show turkey prices increased by about 13.2% over the past two years. 

“This is what I think is similar to lots of other items, particularly in the meat and poultry area,” Reed said. “Turkey prices are up quite a bit over the last few years. Most of that increase was actually from 2019 to 2020. The increase over the last year isn’t quite as dramatic, but still, prices are somewhat higher than we’re used to, for sure.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) weekly turkey report dated Nov. 12, showed that frozen turkeys weighing eight to 16 pounds increased 21 cents per pound in comparison to the previous year.

The USDA data showed an average annual increase of 21.91%. Data from a Wells Fargo bank market report said prices are nearly 50% higher than a five-year average. The last time prices were this high was in 2015, because of the bird flu, the report said. 

A graph news outlets have been using from the Wells Fargo report showed the "relative price of whole bird turkeys over the past few years – the price at the producer level, not the consumer."

The average price of an 8 pound to 16 pound frozen turkey in 2020 was $1.13 per pound, according to the USDA data. For 2021, the average price is $1.36 per pound.

Credit: Turkey Market News Report/USDA
The USDA publishes weekly turkey market reports. This chart was printed in the Nov. 12 report.

Some news outlets cited a Texas A&M article, claiming the price of a 16-pound turkey did double in price. But the Texas A&M article compared the price-per-pound of wholesale boneless, skinless turkey breasts, not a retail whole frozen turkey. 

One reason for the price hike is the decline in turkey production, according to communications from Texas A&M University

David Anderson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension livestock economist, said turkey production is down 5% compared to last year.

“Fewer turkeys combined with higher food supply chain and logistical costs like feed, fuel and labor have pushed prices upward,” Anderson said in the Texas A&M release. Turkey numbers and pounds produced are the lowest they have been since 2015. 

Anderson said many consumers might also be putting different types of meat on their holiday platters, which could be another reason for the lower supply and demand.

“We typically think of Thanksgiving and Christmas when we talk about whole turkeys, but a growing number of consumers have chosen other options like prime rib, or brisket or an entirely different menu that used to represent that second bird,” he said. “It doesn’t take a large percentage of that among 330 million consumers to be a big deal.”

More from VERIFY: No, the price of milk nationwide hasn’t risen by 40% in the last year

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