KUNA, Idaho — Thanksgiving is four weeks away and due to the recent cases of bird flu, plus inflation and weather changes, turkey farmers are left with not as many turkeys as normal.
Cabalo's Orchard and Garden in Kuna is one of the main local farms in the Treasure Valley that offers locally grown turkeys each year for Thanksgiving.
“We started off the year as normal at our normal time with 600 birds. They had not even left the rooting barn yet, and the bird flu came into the area,” owner Cathy Cabalo said.
A farm within several miles from Cabalo Orchard and Gardens was hit with the bird flu earlier this year, and Cabalo says that forced them to keep their birds inside which was a major speed bump.
“When we’re looking at 600 turkeys, that are bread and butter to the season, we didn’t dare let them outside,” Cabalo said.
The farm was forced to put their turkeys inside for an extra 6 to 8 weeks in order to keep them out of any potential harm from the flu.
“Their natural behavior is to huddle very closely and when they huddle closely they create a pile and unfortunately when they are small they will suffocate the ones on the bottom,” she said. “We lost almost half of our birds to a piling incident in the barn because they couldn’t get outside.”
Down the street at Vogel Farms, they had to do the same and bring the birds inside to keep them safe from the disease.
“So that kind of slowed their growth a little bit,” Owner Deborah Rae Engelhardt-Vogel said. “We lost some that we normally wouldn’t have if they were allowed to go outside. If they get the bird flu, they are all dead. That decreased our numbers a bit.”
Plus – Cabalo says the heat wave that came through Idaho also impacted the bird’s growth.
“The heat did not kill them off, but it slowed them way down,” she said. They couldn't continue to grow and live through the heat, so their bodies naturally reacted by slowing down their growth.”
When cooler temperatures finally arrived last month, growth started to pick back up, but Cabalo Orchard and Garden says they are already sold out.
“We usually sell out about the second week in November,” she said. “If we have a year where no serious issues that cause them to go down, we don’t have a problem with selling out. We’ll sell close to out but not totally out.”
“I do know a lot of people are calling me and they're just calling around and there aren’t the birds and they’re a lot more expensive this year,” Engelhardt-Vogel said.
Inflation is causing the prices of just about everything from feed to gasoline for equipment to go up which is also impacting the prices of birds.
“We had to increase our price,” Engelhardt-Vogel said. “I don’t go for a huge markup and so I just want everyone to be able to afford a turkey.”
“Everything has gone up so we sat down and did the math and we did have to raise the prices,” Cabalo said. “Our world is changing, there's a lot of supply chain issues. There are a lot of new diseases and the weather changes have been immense. Be understanding if your store or supplier runs out and say, ‘ok maybe next year.’ Life is constantly changing and we’re doing the best we can.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, frozen turkey inventories are 24% below their three-year average because of the ongoing supply chain shortages.