Around 88% of Americans will sit down on Thursday for Thanksgiving with turkey as the center of attention. The main thing most people think about when it comes to turkey is what size to get. Senior analyst at the ARC advisory group, Chris Cunnane says, “a pound and a half per person is a good rule of thumb” and then people move on the side dishes. The logistics world is required to think a little harder since in a typical year over 46 million turkeys are devoured on just Thanksgiving Day alone and Christmas consumes 22 million more. These few days produce over a billion dollars (average American spends $185.00 per thanksgiving) and turkey farmers depend upon it especially in the four largest producing states, Minnesota (18%), North Carolina (14%) Arkansas and Missouri. Retailers plan 6 months in advance to make sure they have the needed supply to meet the Thanksgiving demand. The road from the farm to the store goes from giants like butterball and local farmers then travels to the consumer via the supply chain.
Keeping it Fresh
There is a ratio of fresh to frozen turkeys for retailers to evaluate. Frozen turkeys are purchased 90% of the time so the fresh turkeys only must represent 10% of the market. The retailers formulate their strategy and then must work with the turkey farmers so they can schedule accordingly. The farmers focus on the timing the incubation of the eggs and the raising the turkeys to a suitable size. Like everything else 2020 has the turkey growers concerned that the market has shifted due to the pandemic. It is just not the amount of turkeys they sell, but also the size. They anticipate smaller gatherings equating smaller turkeys. The CDC has recommended that people do not travel and only have small gatherings with those in their own home. Wal-mart, the nation’s largest grocer, is adding boneless and bone-in turkey breasts to this year’s selection. This year the smaller product is going to move faster and there may be surplus of big birds left over. Fresh turkey creates another issue because it only has a 21-day shelf life so in addition to the timing for the farmers the carriers have an equally important timing factor to contend with. Carriers mush be ready the exact moment the turkeys are ready for the refrigerated transport to take place. Then the retailers and distributors must take these products in right when consumers are ready to purchase them. Once the turkeys hit the stores, they are generally only good a few days after.
Let it Go
Frozen turkeys are easier for the supply chain as they can be transported to and stored in refrigerated storage facilities. The turkeys can be stored there until retailers are ready for them. Turkeys are bred and processed all year, so production does not have to increase so dramatically. Frozen turkeys can be up to three years old before they are sold to consumers! There is additional pressure on the warehouses to processes orders promptly and it requires more workers and longer hours. Whether fresh or frozen they both must be transported in refrigerated trucks which become scarce this time of year. Not only are the trucks in high demand so are the drivers behind the wheel. Due to federal limitations and for the safety of the drivers they cannot extend their hours, so dispatchers work tirelessly to schedule these deliveries to the minute.
Can you pass the . . .
Everyone has their favorite side dish, and it can vary from region to region. Google searches in all fifty states reveal the areas top thanksgiving choices yielding both expected and unexpected results. Mashed potatoes topped the search in 10 states followed up by mac n cheese in 6 states, and rolls or biscuits not far behind. The interesting factor is the 6 mac and cheese states are all connected. Someone in logistics has to know this information and make sure that there is a sufficient supply of mac and cheese headed to the macaroni belt. The amount of additional foods transported during this time is staggering. Cranberries topped very few searches but last year 80 million pounds of cranberries traveled though the supply chain. Pumpkin pie is the most common and 50 million pumpkin pies were transported. Then there is beer for the football and the list goes on. The stores also must manage additional staff or longer hours for existing staff to unload all the incoming trucks and labor to move the product onto the shelves.
Cannot Forget it’s 2020
The farmers have valid concerns that the demand for smaller turkeys may leave the larger birds unbought, but they are not only part of the industry that could see a loss to expected revenue. 10% of a billion-dollar industry comes from exporting turkeys to other countries that may not have the demand of feel comfortable ordering from the United States due to our covid numbers. The shipping industry has already seen loss this year but will rebound stronger than ever as we all rebuild together. For every role mentioned in the logistics chain here there are so many more. The efforts behind the scenes deserve more recognition and due to the pandemic more people than every understand the importance of the supply chain. This Thanksgiving in addition to all that you already have to be thankful for, and as hard as this year has been just being here today is a reason to be thankful, please take a moment to thank the tireless workers of the supply chain.