'The worst year we've ever seen': Turkeys in short supply this Christmas

Anyone looking to cook a turkey this Christmas might want to plan ahead.

Experts in the poultry industry expect a mismatch of supply and demand in the weeks leading up to the holidays.

Pat Pritchard, an Elora resident, has already preordered a turkey from Hilltop Acres Poultry Products in Bloomingdale.

"This year, they are calling for a shortage and I just happened to come over for eggs and thought 'I better place the order,'" she said.

The store's co-owner, Karen Reist, said she's never seen such a short supply in more than 45 years selling turkeys.

"This is the worst year we've ever seen for being able to get turkey or turkey parts," Reist said.

Reist said they have about 1,400 birds in stock and expect they'll sell out earlier than normal.

"I was up until very late last night, putting them into the Christmas book," she said. "Yesterday, there were close to 100 requests."

The store has already declined larger orders this year.

"We're trying our best to make sure we have enough to cover our orders," Reist said. "We're very honest with the people that there is a shortage."

Brian Ricker, chair of Turkey Farmers of Ontario, said the shortage is partly due to a slow down in production during the pandemic as farmers anticipated lower demand. However, that wasn't the case.

"Turkey shortage stocks dropped last year to a 30-year low," Ricker said.

Farmers are working to increase stock, but Ricker said stores could still sell out.

"People shopping for a turkey may not find one at the last minute at their local grocery store," he said. "They might have to go to a second store to find their bird."

Ricker added Canadians may need to pay more for the turkey due to supply chain challenges from the pandemic.

"It did shorten our supply of feed grains, so that, of course, increased our price growing turkeys," he said.

Reist encouraged people to pre-order well in advance or buy a bird now and freeze it before the holidays.