Turkey Trouble, Past and Present

Unfortunately, transporting fresh poultry comes with its own set of complex logistical challenges. Live turkeys must first be carefully transported to the slaughterhouse, processed, and then shipped as quickly as possible to retailers in a temperature-controlled truck. Luckily, new technologies are making the process more efficient and precise than ever before, which in turn is keeping costs down and taste buds happy for millions of Americans on Turkey Day.

But for suppliers and retailers in the Thanksgiving supply chain, the issues don’t end with logistical operations -- historically speaking, the industry has had to deal with a variety of unforeseen crises, including catastrophic weather events and even a mass outbreak of Bird Flu. The 2015 epidemic was the largest avian influenza crisis in United States history, and wiped out much of the Midwest’s poultry supply. Over 14 states were affected, and the flu led to the deaths and/or scheduled euthanizations of more than 21 million birds, 3.3 million of which were turkeys. Many suppliers were forced to dip into their stock of frozen turkeys to compensate for the loss of live birds.

But despite all of the complexities and potential issues that can arise in this delicate supply chain, our collective craving for good eats has proved more potent than the inherent challenges that surround it. Barring a new law decreeing ostrich meat as the new national Thanksgiving Day food, it’s probably safe to assume that our supply of turkey won’t be running out anytime soon.

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