From mashed potatoes and gravy to stuffing, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato casserole—there are a number of elements that go into making the traditional Thanksgiving holiday dinner one we spend al year looking forward to.
Whether you have your cooking down pat, or you turn to Google for instructions year after year, one thing’s certain—the turkey is the star of the show on nearly everyone’s dinner table come Thanksgiving Day.
Have you ever stopped to think about how that 12, 15 or even 20-pound turkey wound up on your dinner table among the other various trimmings? You might not realize that turkey logistics take place all year long, not just the month before Thanksgiving.
Of the $2.375 billion spent on food for Thanksgiving dinner, 90% of those sales stem from turkey costs. Due to the high demand for turkeys come November, it would be nearly impossible for large scale turkey producers such as Butterball and Jennie-O to cull the grown turkeys within a month of Thanksgiving. Instead, the process is conducted throughout the entire year as turkeys are bred, slaughtered, and then frozen. The poultry is then stored at appropriate temperatures in warehouses until turkey sales begin seeing traction in early November. This prevents producers from having to ramp up production as we enter the holidays—as some frozen turkeys may be three years old by the time they are sold through retailers.
The remaining 10% of turkeys that are sold fresh from local farms spoil much quicker and require fast-paced logistics. Surprisingly, fresh turkeys are often the only profitable turkeys sold by grocers for the holiday. Frozen turkeys often come at a cost, not profit, to their sellers who simply strive to keep their customers happy. The reason frozen turkeys produce little to no profit to grocers is because of the cost for warehousing, the overall cheaper price per pound due to the bird being previously frozen, and the cost of transportation as most frozen birds travel a much larger distance than fresh turkeys.
Retailers must delicately balance supply and demand if they want their turkey sales to be profitable. Overstocking frozen turkeys is not a huge deal, as any extra birds can be saved for Christmas—the second leading holiday for turkey consumption. Another alternative is to sell them below market value after Thanksgiving, just to get customers in the door. Surprisingly, turkey costs per pound continue to slowly decrease year after year, making it an enticing choice for the bargain shopper.
Food safety is also a large concern when fresh and frozen poultry come into play. Drivers should be watchful of short cuts they haven’t taken before, which could leave them in a predicament where the turkeys could spoil if they are in the truck for longer than initially anticipated. Although it is of the utmost importance to maintain safe food temperatures, refrigerated freight trucks help to make the process more foolproof and allow the shipment to be slightly less time sensitive—although food temperature safety remains a top concern on the trucker’s mind.
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