KUNA, Idaho -- With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it's time to check out how much your holiday bird might cost you. USDA numbers show a 25% increase in wholesale turkey prices nationwide, which equates to the birds being up $.20 per pound. The USDA calls that a "considerable increase".
In its most recent report, the USDA said there are two major factors playing into the uptick in turkey prices. One is underproduction of the birds themselves. The second factor is the increase in grain prices.
Local turkey farm sees rising costs
"[Costs are] going up, raising everything," Debi Engelhardt-Vogel, co-owner of Vogel Farms Country Market said. "I mean, I notice because I write the checks out to pay the bills. It's just going up."
Engelhardt-Vogel and her husband own a farm in Kuna where they raise a variety of animals and sell the meat. Three years ago, they added seasonal turkeys to their line-up.
"People are really wanting the all-natural birds. There's nothing in these birds, no additives, nothing," Engelhardt-Vogel said.
During the Vogel's three years in the turkey business, USDA numbers show there's been decrease in turkey meat production nationwide. The Vogel's butcher told them there is a shortage.
"With feed costs going up, everything's going up, so a lot of people decided not to get into it because of the cost," Engelhardt-Vogel said.
Raising unique birds while cutting costs
One way the Vogels have cut feed costs is partnering with Cabalo's Orchard and Gardens.
"They get to run around the orchard. They will basically grow up there, until around Thanksgiving," Engelhardt-Vogel said.
The birds start out at the Vogel's farm in June and then move to the Cabalo's orchard when they get bigger. At the orchard, they eat grain and home-grown leftovers.
"They also get any of the excess vegetables all throughout the year," Engelhardt-Vogel said. "Right now, they're getting the apples. In the summer, they get the melons and they get some pumpkins. So they get to eat whatever we have excess of the vegetables we raise."
The Vogel's 300 big turkeys are big eaters, going through a combined 30 buckets of feed each day. The Vogels have another cost-cutter when it comes to grain, as they grow their own.
"We're raising the grain, so we're not really dependent on the market price. We're raising the grain to feed the animals, so we aren't as susceptible if the market goes up," Engelhardt-Vogel said.
How much will holiday fowl cost?
The Vogels say some of their costs, like buying the chicks, butchering, and electricity have gone up and prompted a price increase to customers. They are offering a deal for those who pre-pay. Click here to see their website and ordering information.
KTVB checked three local grocery stores Thursday to see what they're charging for Butterball turkeys. The cheapest was at Winco, $1.28 per pound (less if shoppers spend $50 or more in the same trip). Fred Meyer sells the same brand for $1.99 per pound. Albertson's was charging $2.49 per pound, but with a Preferred Card, $1.59 per pound.
Even higher prices for 2011
Nationwide, with rising grain prices projected in 2011, the USDA is predicting turkey producers to scale back even more this time next year. With that, it shows a projection of slight price increases by next Thanksgiving as well.
Click here to see the latest USDA outlook report.