Have no fear; turkeys are here

November 23, 2013 8:24:33 PM

Sarah Fowler - [email protected]


When it comes to talkin' turkeys, some would say no one knows the feathered fowl quite like your local grocer.  


So when Butterball recently announced it would have a shortage of fresh turkeys and large frozen turkeys during the Thanksgiving holiday, area grocery stores were prepared. By offering their stores' private label brands below cost, area grocery stores hope to make sure all of their customers have a suitable bird on their tables Thursday. 


"We don't have a shortage here at all," said Ben Wesley, general manager of Food Giant in east Columbus. "Most of our fresh ones are private label and we don't have a shortage at all." 


In addition to Butterball turkeys and Best Choice -- Food Giant's private label -- the grocery store also sells Honeysuckle brand turkeys. 


Wesley said the private label turkeys are raised in the same locations as the name brands. 


"They actually come from the same farm, you're just not having to pay for the national brand label to be on it. That's the only difference in the world in them," he said. 


A frozen turkey at Food Giant can cost anywhere from $1.18 to $2.99 per pound while a fresh turkey ranges from $3.99 to $5.99 a pound, Wesley said. Due to the price difference, Wesley said his store sells more frozen than fresh turkeys. 


"On the fresh ones, we usually sell six to eight," he said. "Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the ones we sell are frozen because they're less expensive." 


Across town on Military Road, Sunflower market manager Eddie Hall said the majority of his customers opt for frozen turkeys, too. 


"I probably sell 2 percent fresh and 98 percent frozen," Hall said. "It's very, very few in this market we're in."  


Hall said in order to compete with the name-brand competitors, Sunflower is offering their private label brand frozen turkey for 79 cents per pound with a $20 purchase. 


"We keep the Farm Fresh, our store brand, we generally run those way below cost," he said. "They cost over a dollar a pound but that's the draw item. It gets people in. It's just something that is expected around the holidays." 


Sunflower also sells the Butterball brand. Hall said he received smaller sized turkeys this year due to Butterball turkeys not gaining weight. 


"We did get subbed on some different sizes on some Butterballs," he said. 


"They ran out of some 12 -to-14-pounders and 14-to-16-pounders, that's the average pounders. They sent me some 10-to-12-pounders." 


Hall said the average family uses a 12- to-14-pound turkey for their holiday feast. 


"The 12 to 14 pounds is the norm and that's for the average family," he said. "That's what we sell the most of." 


Turkeys under 16 pounds are referred to as "hen turkeys" while turkeys over 16 pounds are referred to as "Tom turkeys." Hall said hen turkeys are ideal for deep-frying. 


"It fits in the fryers pretty good," he said. "Anything bigger than that won't really fit in those fryers and a lot of people are frying the birds now." 


Hall, who has worked with Sunflower for more than 25 years, said while deep frying turkeys is popular in the South, he has seen a decrease in people buying turkey for the holidays. 


"You don't sell as many turkeys as you used to," he said. "A lot of people have gotten away from cooking a turkey at Thanksgiving. We sell a lot more beef roast, your standing rib roast, because it's simpler and a lot of people are doing a different route from the traditional stuff because they just getting burnt out. 


"The turkeys are really, really decreasing in sales in my opinion." 


Despite the waning sales, Hall said he expects to sell approximately 200 to 300 turkeys this holiday season. 


Wesley said his store has never run out of turkeys before but he is concerned that there may be a shortage this year. Wesley's concerns have little to do with Butterball, however, and more to do with the recent closing of Southern Family Market. 


"Usually we don't run out but I'm kind of concerned this year because Southern Family closed down. I'm afraid by Tuesday or Wednesday we won't have any."

Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.