Butterball blames fresh turkey shortage on skinny birds

A frozen Butterball turkey on sale for Thanksgiving.

A frozen Butterball turkey on sale for Thanksgiving. (Nov. 18, 2013) (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

Thanksgiving shoppers: If you see a fresh, 20-pound Butterball turkey in your supermarket's refrigerated case, grab it. The country's leading turkey producer announced that it was shipping a "limited supply" of fresh whole turkeys weighing more than 16 pounds for this year's holiday.

The shortage, according to Butterball, is due to "a decline in weight gain on some of our farms." The country's largest producer of turkeys, 41 million each year, is "continuing to evaluate all potential causes" but would not say why the turkeys have failed to fatten. Fresh turkeys account for about 15 percent of all Thanksgiving birds sold, according to Butterball.

By Christmas, Butterball says, the problem should be remedied and it will be shipping its full supply of large, fresh birds. At Waldbaum's on Route 110 in Melville Monday, Carolyn Delise of Melville wasn't happy with the turkey outlook. The fresh Butterball "is the one I always count on," she said. "You can't go wrong with it." She said she is considering going to Costco or trying another brand such as Shady Brook Farms.

One option Butterball fans should consider is buying a frozen turkey. Butterball has shipped 100 percent of its usual number of frozen birds, which are raised and processed throughout the year. A frozen turkey is less expensive than a fresh one; currently Stop & Shop's Peapod online grocery is selling frozen turkeys for $1.79 a pound; fresh are $1.99 a pound.

If you are considering a frozen turkey this year, remember that it must be slowly defrosted in the refrigerator. Figure on one day for every 4 pounds, which means that the 20-pound bird will need five days to defrost.

With Paulana Lamonier

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