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Local Turkey Farmers Weigh In On Fresh Turkey Shortage

Posted at 10:32 PM, Nov 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-20 22:32:26-05

MARSHALL, Mich. – According to the American Farm Bureau Federation the average price of a Thanksgiving dinner this year will be $49.00.  If a fresh turkey is on the menu it might be a tough find however.

Butterball is the nation’s leader when it comes to selling the Thanksgiving birds but recently announced this years harvest didn’t quite measure up.

The Cornwell Family knows a thing or two about raising turkeys.  The family farm in Marshall has been in operation for 250 years.

Elyse Bibbings is part of the Cornwell lineage.  She said Cornwell’s Turkeyville is a legacy built on trial and error.

“Great grandpa tried raising cows but he wasn’t good at it and so he started raising turkeys,” said Bibbings.

Over the years, the family has focused on Turkey and making sure they do it well.  Anyone can get a Thanksgiving meal or other turkey treats any time they want.

Bibbings said the bread and butter of their business is selling 600 to 800 turkeys around Thanksgiving.

“They actually just got here from the farm yesterday,” said Bibbings.  “They have never been frozen.  They have no preservatives in them so they are as fresh as you can possibly get them.”

That familiarity with a fresh bird means they understand when competitors like Butterball announce that they will not have as many fresh birds for sale as in years past.

A company statement from Butterball to FOX 17 reads in part: We experienced a decline in weight gains on some of our farms causing a limited availability of large fresh turkeys.

Butterball would not go into detail on the reason for the lack of weight on the birds.  It’s a problem turkey farmers like the Cornwells can sympathize with.

“If one gets sick and it spreads rapidly you can lose a whole flock,” said Bibbings.  “A couple years ago we lost a flock of turkeys and it’s pretty devastating because we raise just about what we need.  We’ve been doing this a long time so we know it’s hard.”

One look inside the cooler at Cornwell’s Turkeyville and it’s clear the problem is not affecting everyone.

“We have anywhere from 14 to 50 pound turkeys,” she said.

We reached out to West Michigan grocers and heard back from a Meijer spokesperson who said the order from Butterball was 100% filled and assured us they still have a selection of turkeys to choose from.