Bird flu and inflation impacts on turkey prices

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(ABC 6 News) – Prices are increasing and shelves are emptying as we get closer to Thanksgiving, but what is the real reason behind those higher costs?

With rumors of a turkey shortage and the bird flu, you might think that’s the reason your turkey is more expensive at the grocery store. It’s not, turkey farmers say the real reason is inflation.

Turkey farmer John Zimmerman said his feed and labor costs are up significantly this year. According to, the average price of a turkey has increased by about 15%. For a 16-pound bird, you could pay around $25. Last year at this time, you’d be paying around $21.

“Other parts of the thanksgiving meal are up substantially more so I think we’ve done a very good job of trying to not pass on the total brunt of our increased costs on the consumers,” said Zimmerman.

This spring, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported a high rate of bird flu. Cases have since dropped, but the concern of it coming back isn’t on Zimmerman’s mind.

“So it’s something we’re probably going to have to learn to live with year-round,” added Zimmerman.

“We’ve had some neighboring flocks that have been affected but I’ve been very fortunate that I have not been directly affected.”

Shauna Voss, a senior veterinarian with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health tells ABC 6: “Most of our cases happened in our commercial turkey operations but that’s also because we raise a lot of turkeys here in the state and the turkeys seem to be pretty susceptible to the virus.”

That’s why Zimmerman is increasing biosecurity. Helping to decrease farm-to-farm transmission. Those with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health said early detection is key.

“We want to find these farms where the impacted flocks could be,” added Voss.

“So that we can stop the spread. We don’t want that virus being shed and spread to neighboring farms.”

As far as what is on the shelf at the grocery store, Zimmerman said there shouldn’t be a problem and there are plenty of turkeys to go around. If you are looking for a specific kind or brand, he recommends planning ahead.

If you’re aware of a bird flu case, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health is asking you to use the Minnesota Avian Influenza Hotline. That number is 1-833-454-0156. You can also report sick poultry online by clicking here.