This year’s Thanksgiving turkey will be more expensive than usual due to a worldwide bird flu outbreak that began last summer and has already reduced market supply well ahead of the Thanksgiving holidays. Since July, hospitals in Vietnam have reported too an increase in the number of people infected with influenza A.
With turkeys being more expensive and in shorter supply than usual, the race to snag the best bird well in advance of the holiday may be even fiercer this fall. However, high prices may reduce turkey consumption entirely during the holiday season. According to Forbes, when fresh turkey prices rose 10% above those of 2020, turkey sales fell 6%.
Humans are not at risk from avian influenza, but it is fatal to birds that contract it. Farmers must slaughter entire flocks of turkeys to contain outbreaks.
While outbreaks are not uncommon on their own, they are usually halted by the arrival of warmer weather. This year, however, the flu has persisted into the hottest months. In fact, this outbreak may equal or exceed the worst in recent history: The bird flu infected over 50 million turkeys in 2015 before control measures and warm weather brought it to a halt. The outbreak has already affected 40.8 million birds since January of this year.