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'Turkey troubles?': Local farmer explains questions of shortages before Thanksgiving

According to the USDA, whole frozen turkeys already cost about 26 cents a pound more this year than in 2020.

COOPERSVILLE, Mich. — The global supply shortage could impact Thanksgiving dinner across the country, and especially when it comes to the main course.  

Experts warn that it could be hard to find a turkey for as cheap as we're used to, but for West Michigan farmers, they're not falling on hard times. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, frozen turkey inventories are 24% below their three-year average due to the supply chain shortage. 

"The local food scene is very alive in West Michigan," said Matt Hehl with Hehlden Farm out of Coopersville. "We raise a big batch of turkeys this time of year that will be processed the week of Thanksgiving. It's a fresh, never frozen bird that you can get locally."

Experts say supply chain issues and labor shortages are driving up the prices of food, including turkeys and other items commonly found in a Thanksgiving dinner.

"Those shortages are out there," Hehl said, "and we really live in a society that is so used to having everything next-day that it makes you think a little bit and maybe plan ahead."

But is this supply chain issue affecting local turkey farmers like Matt Hehl? The short answer is no.

"We're very pleased with the way things have moved this summer," he said. "COVID-19 has turned people more locally for food so we've definitely seen that surge."

What has been hard for local farmers, though? Labor. 

"That's been the toughest," Hehl said, "finding quality people who want to work even in a job that isn't super glamorous."

According to the USDA, whole frozen turkeys already cost about 26 cents a pound more this year than in 2020.

The inventory is low thanks to the national supply chain problems and labor shortages, and experts say it will be harder to find a turkey this year and likely more expensive once found. 

Hehlden Farm offers the common white turkey but they also raise smaller, dark, heritage turkeys that offer a different taste. 

"Our birds are sourced, grown and processed right here in West Michigan," said Hehl.

Because of that, Hehl says a fresh turkey from a local farm might cost you a little more, but the product is high-quality.

"This is not your $.49 supermarket Butterball," he said, "and there's a place for that! We don't have a problem with that whatsoever, but we do offer something a little different."

Experts believe the rise in food prices is likely to continue into 2022 as the pandemic still lingers on.

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