Thanksgiving shopping may look different to residents of Alachua County

The holiday season is one of the busiest times for grocery stores in Alachua County. However, the supply chain delays plaguing the global economy mean buyers around the world can now have a harder time finding their ideal turkey at a low price.

Across the country, turkey prices are on the rise. According to the US Department of Agriculture, there was an increase of 22% in the price of frozen Grade A turkeys from 8 to 16 pounds since the same period last year. This means that buyers will have to pay a higher price for a smaller bird.

At Ward’s family-owned supermarket on Northwest 23rd Avenue in Gainesville, poultry manager Bryan Ward said he’s already seen this problem come up firsthand.

“There is definitely going to be an increase in the price over last year,” Ward said. “Sizing is what seems to be very difficult this year.”

Birds aside, he said, the store is seeing less inventory of holiday favorites on the shelves.

“Getting some seasonings and the bottles to put them in is going to be a problem,” Ward said. “You can hardly find pie crusts right now. “

Owner Danielle Ward, the poultry manager’s sister, also said the store was running low on the stuffing and gravy mix.

Susan White, a resident of Gainesville, is among those shoppers who have noticed a lack of products on the shelves.

“I told my daughter a month ago,” White said. “So we already have a turkey. “

She said she was ready to look for some food substitutes until the shortage subsides.

“I think we really have to get used to the shortages,” White said. “It all counts in how much we pay people to work in facilities that process food. “

One of the main causes of supply chain problems is a lack of manpower in the service and trucking industries, according to the National Grocers Association in Washington.

Maria Brous, director of communications for Publix in Florida, wrote in a statement that her stores are facing week-to-week shortages.

Brous wrote, however, that Publix does its best to be well stocked.

“When it comes to the holiday season, at Publix we place our orders for holiday items well in advance of the season,” she wrote.

Local food banks are also struggling to receive donations for those in need this holiday season.

Leza Mueller, director of communications and development at Bread of the Mighty Food Bank in Gainesville, said price increases and supply chain disruptions have impacted their dynamism.

“We are seeing a reduction in our donations both in number and in funds,” Mueller said.

She also said the Bread of the Mighty continues to urge the community to help the less fortunate by donating time, money or food.

“Our drivers are always out five days a week to collect whatever our supermarkets are giving away,” Mueller said.

Jason Scheffler, an assistant research professor of meat science at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said wildfires in the west were another contributing factor reduced inventory in local grocery stores.

“If I don’t have birds in California, they have to come from somewhere else,” Scheffler said of West Coast supermarkets. “This means birds from somewhere in the east then go to California, reducing supply on the east coast and Florida.”

The professor also said that another factor was affecting stores like Publix and Ward’s.

“Last year people had small gatherings with smaller birds due to the pandemic,” he said. “With all these little gatherings, they wiped out all the little birds.”

Scheffler said there may be a large supply of large turkeys, but the industry is grappling with what consumers want this year.

“Before COVID, the industry had a pretty good idea of ​​the distribution of birds it had to provide each year,” he said. “The last few years have been such a disruption to the industry that it’s hard to predict.”

With suppliers unsure of what types of birds to produce, the Grocers Association wrote that buyers should start researching their ideal meats and sides now.

“Buying early for the holidays is a smart strategy, especially in today’s conditions,” the association wrote. “There is a lot of food in the supply chain, but certain items can be more difficult to obtain at times. “

Brous also had similar tips for Thanksgiving dinner buyers.

“The earlier you shop, the more choices you have in terms of branding and selection availability,” she wrote.

Scheffler said buyers might also find it easier if they are more flexible with their plans.

“Nothing says you can’t get a turkey breast, have a prime rib on the side and start a new tradition,” he said.

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