It won't be all gravy for turkey lovers -- and sellers -- this holiday.
A shortage of fresh, large, whole turkeys -- 16 lbs. and greater -- could impact the holiday season, says the nation's largest turkey producer.
Butterball, which produces more turkeys than anyone, says it will be shipping out about half as many large, fresh never-frozen turkeys to retailers this year. But executives make clear that plenty of Butterball's large, frozen turkeys will be available.
The company statement comes less than two weeks before the Thanksgiving holidays and could impact holiday meal plans coast-to-coast. When Butterball talks, holiday cooks listen. This year, Butterball will produce about 41 million turkeys -- weighing a combined 1.2 billion pounds. Figure one in four Thanksgiving turkeys are Butterball.
Whole turkeys account for 20% to 25% of Butterball's sales, the company says.
The announcement comes during an already-cramped holiday season, with just 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Butterball declined to specifically spell out the reasons for the shortage of large, fresh turkeys.
"We experienced a decline in weight gains on some of our farms causing a limited availability of large, fresh turkeys," Butterball said in a statement. "While we are continuing to evaluate all potential causes, we are working to remedy the issue. We sincerely regret the inconvenience that some of our customers have experienced as a result of this issue."
Butterball CEO Rod Brenneman was unavailable for comment.
The company says it has shipped 100% of customer orders for frozen turkeys. So, consumers who can't find Butterball fresh, whole turkeys can purchase frozen Butterball turkeys, the company says. Frozen turkeys, however, can require three to five days to thaw.
The company says that it expects to "completely" fulfill all fresh, whole turkey orders for Christmas
As it has done for more than three decades, Butterball once again will staff its Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800-BUTTERBALL. The line, which has been staffed this year since Nov. 1, will continue to take consumer calls most days until Dec. 24. On Thanksgiving day, alone, it expects to take questions from more than 12,000 consumers.
The most common question: How to thaw a turkey?