Producers say most of state's fresh birds are spoken for
By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Turkey producers in the Golden State have been urging consumers to get their orders for Thanksgiving birds in early.
Growers such as Foster Farms, Zacky Farms, Willie Bird and others expect to be sold out of fresh turkeys well before the Nov. 24 holiday.
In fact, most of the state's fresh turkeys were already spoken for -- via contracts with stores or direct sales -- last week, said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation in Modesto.
"This is going to be a year when, if people want fresh turkeys, they'd better let their supermarkets know," Mattos said.
"In California, fresh and natural has been our claim to fame," he said. "We haven't seen much of a change. There are still a lot of frozen turkeys sold, but fresh is what people want in California."
About 16 million turkeys have been raised in the state, and the turkeys are healthy this year because of good weather, the California Farm Bureau Federation reports.
The number is up from 15.2 million raised in California in 2010 and 15 million raised in 2009, according to the National Turkey Federation. Minnesota led the nation in 2009-10 with 92 million turkeys raised. About a third of the turkey consumed in the U.S. is eaten during the holidays.
The last few years have been good for turkey producers in California as nationwide supplies have dropped, Mattos said. Production has steadily decreased from a peak of 292.9 million turkeys grown nationwide in 1995 to an estimated 244 million in 2011, according to NTF statistics.
"We're not overproducing like many commodities have done over the years," Mattos said. "The price has been good for farmers and processors, and it should be another good year for the industry."
Mattos expects turkeys to disappear off the shelves quickly as supermarkets discount them to entice people into their stores. Even so, prices are averaging about $1.10 to $1.20 per pound for fresh California turkeys, or as much as $4 a pound for fresh free-range turkeys, he said.
Many of the companies offer hotlines for people to receive tips on cooking or how big a turkey they should buy. The California Poultry Federation also offers a video on its website instructing people how to roast a turkey.
California Poultry Federation holiday cooking: www.cpif.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=303&Itemid=151