Avian flu losses in 2022 affected turkey breast prices more than whole hens
Frozen wholesale turkey breast prices climbed abruptly in response to the 2022 avian flu outbreak, a disease that led to sharply reduced poultry inventories. Before the outbreak started in February 2022, both frozen whole bird (hen) and wholesale turkey breast prices had been increasing gradually. Cumulative losses because of avian flu surpassed 7 million turkeys, and breast prices peaked at $2.98 per pound in the week ending October 7, 2022. Prices remained elevated for the remainder of the year. Once reports of new outbreaks slowed in mid-December 2022, whole turkey hen prices leveled off. At the same time, breast prices declined, averaging $2.34 per pound in the week ending April 28, 2023. This is $0.32 higher than a similar week in 2022, but down $0.64 from the peak price last year. Divergence in prices between frozen turkey breast meat and whole bird prices is, in part, explained by seasonality; demand for whole birds is much more seasonal than wholesale demand for turkey breast meat. Turkey breasts are more versatile than whole hens. At 4-8 pounds, turkey breasts can be sold directly at the retail level or used in deli meats and other processed products. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, May 2023.
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