How does linguica sound to you for Thanksgiving dinner? It might be easier to find this year than a traditional turkey. A meat cutter at the New Bedford Market Basket grocery store tells me turkeys, particularly turkeys under 16 pounds, could be in short supply this year.
But Consumer Reports says all this talk about a turkey shortage is "an overstatement." The publication admits, however, that concerns about COVID are in play again this year and are adding to the problem. "You might have a harder time finding a fresh turkey smaller than 16 pounds because demand is up due to smaller holiday gatherings. (These little ones sold out first last year.) But frozen turkeys in all sizes will be in abundance," the publication reported.
That statement appeared in the September 28 edition and an October 6 updated version of the story. A lot has changed since then. For example, the ongoing and worsening supply chain crisis is the result of transportation and labor issues, among other things. There are also shortages in packaging materials such as styrofoam packaging trays that are hampering the entire meat processing industry.
My meat cutter friend is not authorized to speak for the Market Basket chain, so we'll refer to her as "Deep Turkey." Deep Turkey tells me the store only has a small number of large frozen turkeys on hand presently. This close to Thanksgiving, the freezer cases should be overflowing. But Deep Turkey says big brand names such as Butterball have not committed to sending any birds, particularly smaller ones. Only Market Basket brand and a few Shady Brook Farm turkeys are on display currently.
Deep Turkey says the store has not even begun to take orders for fresh turkeys yet, and she has received no instructions as to whether it will. Deep Turkey's advice is to grab a frozen bird now and store it. She says that is what she intends to do.
Again, this is just one store employee speaking, not the store management, but it's still food for thought.
If all of that is not bad enough, expect to pay more for the turkey if you find out. Phil Lempert, the food market analyst known as The Supermarket Guru, tells Consumer Reports, "Throw climate change into the mix and we've got sky-rocketing costs for grain-feed too."
The bottom line is that there may or may not be an actual shortage of turkeys in New Bedford this Thanksgiving, but you might not be able to get the bird you want. The problem is impacting the other area markets, butcher shops, and restaurants as well.
My advice would be to adopt a backup plan. That linguica idea is beginning to sound pretty good right about now.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.