Emerging Markets / November 24, 2016

Turkey Markets and Production in the United States

On all calendars throughout the United States, the fourth Thursday of November marks the yearly celebration of Thanksgiving. Historically, Thanksgiving Day commemorates the good agricultural harvests that the early British pilgrims of the Plymouth plantation and the Wampanoag natives shared during the early 17th century. Thanksgiving is one of the oldest and most important holidays within the US, which also marks the beginning of the winter holiday season. Today, Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days for both airports and highways throughout the US, as people travel to join their families for dinner and a weekend of celebration.

Traditionally, Thanksgiving meals consist of turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, cranberry sauce, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie, amongst countless other plates. Unsurprisingly, the US is the largest consumer, producer, and exporter of turkey meat in the world, representing approximately half of the total global supply. This article analyzes international turkey markets, paying particular attention to domestic production within the US.

Turkey Markets and Production in the United States

The aggregate production of turkey meat worldwide during recent years has been of approximately 6 million metric tons annually. Within this market, the US produces some 3 million metric tons, the European Union accounts for more than 2 million, and Brazil outputs over 500.000 metric tons every year. Another significant producer is Canada, who celebrates its national Thanksgiving Day every October, with approximately 150.000 metric tons annually. The largest producers in the EU are Germany with more than 520.000 metric tons, France with almost 500.000, Italy with more than 330.000, and the United Kingdom with some 200.000 metric tons. Domestically, in the US, a handful of states dominate turkey production. During 2015, these states were Minnesota with some 41 million turkeys, North Carolina with 31 million turkeys, Arkansas with 28 million, Indiana and Missouri with 19 million each, and Virginia with 17 million turkeys. Throughout the last several years, the average price for a frozen turkey in the US during the Fall season has been US$1.50 per pound.

In the US, during 2015 alone, the turkey market was valued at approximately US$5.7 billion. Furthermore, over the last several decades, as meat consumers have become more health conscious and preferences have evolved, turkey has become an increasingly popular and sought out food item. Similarly, the consumption of turkey meat throughout the US has become significantly less seasonal than a generation ago. In fact, today, the estimated per capita consumption of turkey meat is of 16 pounds yearly. In terms of trade, the US exports some 400.000 metric tons of turkey meat on a yearly basis, valued at approximately US$700 million. The main export destination for US turkey products are Mexico and China. Meanwhile, turkey imports into the US remain minimal.

The turkey market in the US is expected to continue growing throughout the country, particularly through outlets such as grocery stores, which currently represent about 50% of the consumer output for this market. Furthermore, with poultry and turkey products becoming increasingly popular worldwide, US exports of turkey meat will continue to grow as new markets are established internationally.

(Read more about Agriculture and Free Trade in the Canadian Economy)

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