Butterball, the brand synonymous with Thanksgiving turkeys, has announced a significant shortage on fresh turkeys for this year’s holiday.
According to the company, supermarket retailers will only receive half of their turkey orders placed with Butterball—if they ordered by June—on fresh turkeys weighing 16 pounds or more. The shortage is happening because, according to Butterball, the turkeys didn’t gain enough weight. A statement released by Butterball explains: “We experienced a decline in weight gains on some of our farms causing a limited availability of large, fresh turkeys. While we are continuing to evaluate all potential causes, we are working to remedy the issue.”
Butterball is the world’s largest producer of turkeys, around 20 percent of the more than 250 million killed in the U.S. each year, and 30 percent of the nearly 50 million killed for Thanksgiving dinners. Last February, Butterball workers were found guilty of felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty charges after a Mercy for Animals investigation obtained undercover footage of abuse.
While the shortage is clearly a setback for Butterball’s sales, other turkey producers have not reported any major shortages. According to Take Part, a pasture-raised turkey producer in Sonoma County, Calif. is having the opposite issue: “We’re short on smaller turkeys,” says Willie Bird farm manager Beagle Brodsky. “We’ve had no rain in Northern California, and the turkeys tend to eat when it’s dry, so we got bigger turkeys this year.”
And Tofurky and Field Roast—vegetarian holiday feast alternatives to turkey—are also not reporting any shortages. Animal welfare enthusiasts see the Butterball shortage as an opportunity for more humanely raised birds to make their appearance on Thanksgiving tables this year.
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