The average weights of slaughtered turkeys typically falls from October to November as producers shift from raising large birds for deli meat and parts to the smaller birds to be cooked whole. Those whole birds are frozen and put into storage to build up the holiday supply. This helps ensure there’s enough in stock for peak holiday demand but also means the industry is less able to adapt to the changes in consumer demand brought by pandemic restrictions.

The turkeys designated for holiday centerpieces this year were raised and slaughtered starting in June, well before warnings from health officials and data from Canada showed infections rising after their Thanksgiving gatherings in October. Of course, they were nearly all produced after the start of the pandemic.

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