Skip to main content

Smaller turkeys, lower prices on Thanksgiving menu

turkey on table

URBANA, Ill. – As concerns rise over the possible spread of coronavirus during large family gatherings, the expected smaller holiday party size is affecting the food production industry. Smaller guest invites means consumers are looking for smaller whole turkeys on the holiday menu in 2020.

Local health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control, are warning against large family gatherings for the holidays, so consumers may be downsizing from their usual 25-pound bird or switching the menu entirely.

“What’s going to happen is people are going to have smaller group settings and buy boneless turkey breasts instead of the whole turkey,” says Ken Koelkebeck, University of Illinois animal sciences professor. “There may also be more demand for ham.”

Koelkebeck, who specializes in poultry production, says supermarkets will be serving up good deals this year, especially on birds larger than 15 pounds. He’s seen prices between 33 cents to 39 cents a pound.

“In order to sell those whole turkeys, they’re going to have to cut the price,” Koelkebeck says, “and that means good specials for consumers on whole birds.”

Grocery stores typically lose money on whole turkeys with low prices, but use the marketing strategy of lower prices to gets shoppers in the door hoping they'll spend more on other holiday ingredients, sides, and desserts.

For those worried they won’t get enough leftovers, prices are expected to drop even further after Thanksgiving, as low as 19 cents a pound. Koelkebeck says that might be a good opportunity to stock up if consumers have the freezer space because higher feed prices for corn and soybeans will affect the turkey supply in 2021.

To see a video tutorial on how to break down a turkey for storage, visit

SOURCE: Kenneth Koelkebeck, Department of Animal Sciences, Illinois Extension
WRITEREmily Steele, Media Communications Coordinator, Illinois Extension

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.