November 18th, 2013
10:30 AM ET
Share this on:

If it's mid-November, there must be some sort of panic-inducing announcement about the shortage of a Thanksgiving dinner staple. In years past, pumpkin pie filling has been locus of the upset. This year, it's fresh Butterball turkeys.

Note: that's specifically fresh Butterball turkeys, and just that particular brand. There are still plenty of frozen turkeys from Butterball, as well as fresh birds from other producers available for your roasting pleasure. But the mere notion of not having enough of a T-Day dish to gobble down seems to incite freakout.

The skinny: some farmers who supply Butterball couldn't get their turkeys to plump up sufficiently, so fresh ones over 16 pounds might be in short supply.

Butterball released a statement via e-mail saying in part: "Butterball and its retail partners have ample supply of frozen whole turkeys of all sizes – small, medium or large. While there may be limited availability on some larger sizes of fresh turkeys, Butterball has shipped 100 percent of customer orders of frozen whole turkeys and products are in distribution across the country. We experienced a decline in weight gains on some of our farms causing a limited availability of large, fresh turkeys. While we are continuing to evaluate all potential causes, we are working to remedy the issue. We sincerely regret the inconvenience that some of our customers have experienced as a result of this issue."

Butterball produces around 1.3 billion pounds of turkey meat a year, and 20% of the United States' turkeys.

Breathing a little easier? Good. You've got ten days until holiday madness descends. Make 'em count.

Thanksgiving help:
Turkey tips you wish you'd known sooner
Buy right and don't waste food
Thanksgiving dinner for 8 for $70
Stocking up for the big day
Avoid these dreaded dishes
5 Reasons to buy a heritage bird
Get your prep work out of the way
Defrost that bird!
Safe time and temperature for turkey
Philippe Cousteau's perfect turkey and gravy (and an ethical dilemma)
5 Turkey don'ts
Thaw that bird!
Out of time? Spatchcock that turkey!
Stress-free brining
Deep-fried indoor turkey – for science

Posted by:
Filed under: Big Business • Business and Farming News • Farms • Thanksgiving

soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. What?

    Did someone say there's a shortage of Ball Butter? Say it ain't so!

    November 21, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  2. RAZ

    If there's a shortage of Butterballs... go with Jennie-O. Just sayin'.

    November 21, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  3. Jdizzle McCrappedMyPants ♫♫

    Lies. Last time I was at Wal-Mart all I saw were Butterballs

    November 20, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  4. sandi storm

    Use a cooking bag. keeps the meat moist. Use a meat thermometer, too....don't trust those pop-up thingy!

    November 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • RAZ

      best way to go!

      November 21, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  5. Gail d

    ( a turkey is a turkey no matter what the brand name is! It's all in the way u cook it! That is if u no how 2 !

    November 18, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
    • Really?

      Did you text that comment from your 10-key? No? Then type out the words you lazy freak.

      November 20, 2013 at 8:18 am |
      • @ really

        Nope, I'm 17, YOU freak.

        November 21, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  6. ladies first


    November 18, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
  7. ladies first

    by the all time whining on here from the negative posts id wager the atmoshere is the same around you HAPPY TURKEY DAY

    November 18, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
  8. yuki

    Turkey sucks, I'd rather have a good steak.

    November 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • Kitty

      Agreed, Turkey is too mainstream go with Duck, Goose, Elk, Deer, Pigeon or better yet rabbit instead.
      Be a rebel at the thanksgiving table, whoo!

      November 18, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
      • SixDegrees

        I like turkey OK. It's cheap, and mild in flavor, so you can modify it in lots of ways.

        Duck is also good, but not so easy to find. Goose is weird; it's full of fat, to the point where you can cook a 12 pound goose and wind up with 5 pounds of meat and 8 pounds of fat.

        I prefer meats that obey the laws of physics.

        November 19, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • freedom

      i agree with you i have worked in both plants but the beef plants like JBS are nasty and the butterballs are extremely clean. i had to quit in the beef because the nastiness. i spend two months to be able to eat beef again.

      November 18, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • @ YOU

      YOU suck,

      November 21, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  9. Luke

    So what? Cook some chickens, cook a ham, cook a roast, your thanksgiving main dish doesn't HAVE to be turkey. And to a lesser and more pathetic extent, if you're a liberal, put on your favorite unisex hippie skirt and go vegan for thanksgiving. The day is about family, gratitude and being together. The actual meal is trivial.

    November 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • PaytonB

      pffft, the only reason I put up with my family that day is for the tasty Turkey!

      November 18, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • @ Luke

      Thumbs up!

      November 21, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  10. Elaine

    Most turkeys mass produced are abused, kicked, dragged, and beaten with metal rods before they make it to your table. Factory farming of pigs, cows, and chickens produce the same horrific results. I would encourage you to look at the videos on the internet of farm animal abuse before eating another steak, burger, or chicken sandwich. Most of these animals are pumped full of hormones to grow rapidly beyond their normal weight range. When you eat their flesh, you are ingesting those chemicals as well. Think about the welfare of those animals and your health as well.

    November 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • RoboKnuckle

      "abused, kicked, dragged, and beaten with metal rods"
      So what you are saying is they are tenderizing their delicious flesh for me so I don't have to? That must be why it is so moist and tasty!!!

      November 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
      • Jdizzle McCrappedMyPants ♫♫


        November 20, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • dlpartyka

      As my Dad would say, "Shut up and eat."

      November 18, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • PaytonB

      You should look at the impact farming of vegetation has on the environment.

      November 18, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
      • freedom

        yeah they beat the ground and the plants with rods, roll it with equipment, heavy equipment i cant keep going its stupid,... lets have a steak and let them miss it

        November 18, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
    • vbscript2

      I've got news for you: the chemicals used for the vast majority of fruit and vegetable production are worse than those growth hormones... and the ones that haven't been treated with those chemicals probably house the larvae (and occasionally adults) of various bugs (which, by the way, means that you're still eating animal products, just not as tasty ones.)

      November 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Leigh

      Don't even waste your time. The truth of what goes on in meat production is an atrocity, but some people are simply too self centered and heartless to care. Even when you point out that the cause of increased disease in this country is due to eating meat, people are in denial. The real shame is that it doesn't have to be this way.

      November 19, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • @ Elaine

      Aren't you just a ray of Sunshine!?

      November 21, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  11. Pablo

    Calling him a Butterball is just being mean to Mayor Ford!

    November 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  12. watergirl

    Why does it have to be turkey anyways?

    November 18, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  13. crazyvermont

    As a person in agri business, I can tell you this is one of the biggest hoaxes ever played on American consumer. Butterball grew a record number of turkeys in 2013 and Turkeys grow at a very predictable rate ie large Tom Turkeys will be 38 pounds in 18 weeks and it takes approximately the same amount of time to grow a hen turkey that will dress out around 18 pounds. Quite simply, Butterball(now owned by Seaboard Farms) is trying to exit the fresh turkey business to limit their financial exposure on fresh spoiled turkeys, many which have to be slaughtered in mid October. It's the reason so few national companies sell fresh turkeys

    November 18, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Lee

      Makes perfect sense what you post there. I was simply figuring that this 'shortage' was just a way to jack up prices even further by generating buzz "Gotta have a fresh Butterball turkey' for some extra (however tiny it may actually be) snob factor for the table.

      I'd rather have frozen anyway. The process of spoilage starts a few hours after butchering. The sooner it is frozen, the less the spoilage has progressed until it is thawed and cooked right away. Turkeys carry E. coli and other nasty bugs to the same degree that chickens do too.

      November 19, 2013 at 6:24 am |
  14. Duke

    I actually use fresh breast wate that way fora smaller gathering. And don't forget to brine your birds, to bring in added flavor.

    November 18, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • goatsandgreens

      That doesn't satisfy those of us who prefer the dark meat. A better option is getting a large chicken and roasting it.

      November 19, 2013 at 6:40 am |
  15. rc

    Here's the problem. He lied and he knew it. The idea all along was to get people tossed off their plans so they had to enroll in the exchanges which defrays the cost of the sick and elderly. Regardless if it will be beneficial or not, the bottom line is that subterfuge was used to sell it. This was a President that promised transparency. Unfortunately, he is just a more eloquent version of the same old Washington culture.

    November 18, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • RichardHead

      Thanks for telling us about all the Turkeys in Washington……..Your on the Wrong thread.

      November 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
      • baltopaul


        November 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
      • VladT

        Someone is confusing the movie "Free Birds" with reality......

        November 19, 2013 at 4:58 am |
    • MC

      Get psychiatric help today. It's covered by the Affordable Care Act.

      November 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      What the what now? Are the birds speaking to you?

      November 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
  16. Shuffler

    The only reason to get a fresh turkey is if you want to baste it yourself or fry it. All frozen turkeys are self basting. When you want to fry a turkey you do not want that basting solution injected in the breast.
    When I was in the business, most folks were confused regarding the difference in the fresh and frozen.

    November 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • goatsandgreens

      I don't want basting solution pre-injected in any case.

      November 19, 2013 at 6:43 am |
  17. RichardHead

    There is something Fowl about this article.

    November 18, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  18. Jean

    I suspect a marketing ploy? Create a shortage and people will run out to buy? However I agree with other posters, I haven't purchased a Butterball in years ever since the one I did buy was tough and tasted like soap...or something un-turkey like. Try to buy the one least messed with.

    November 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  19. Steve Turner

    "Free Range" means the bird has a window to look out.

    November 18, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      Best answer on this post:) Most people do not even realize the difference between "free range" which means living outside and "free range" which means never outside. Incidentally, Butterball marketing department came up with that phrase when owned by Carolina in an effort to crack the health food crowd and sell massive amounts of over produced turkeys

      November 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Sam

      Free range means the turkey can wander around and pick his food out of random cow poops.

      November 18, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  20. Pinkman

    Most of the frozen turkeys are years old! If you were to get a 'fresh' turkey, that is pick it out from the farm, you would probably not like it as it's so different. Believe me I did it and won't again!

    November 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      The oldest any frozen turkey would possibly be is a year old at time of sale and that would be rare. Frozen turkeys like most other frozen food products have a use by/sell by date and most if not all warehous3es have a requirement that product have 90 days left on an items sell life upon receipt. Ive known people that have kept frozen turkeys in freezer for 2-3 years, but you wouldn't buy anything that old at store

      November 18, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • baltopaul

      Frozen turkeys are not that old. Also, while fresh turkey is different than frozen, it is not so radically different as you suggest. We live in a turkey-producing state and always get fresh turkeys for thanksgiving, but we get frozen at other times of the year. The difference is not so substantial that your average person would want one but never the other.

      November 18, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  21. JoeyE

    I prefer Perdue turkey sowwy :P

    November 18, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  22. myrtlemaylee

    We don't eat Butterball. And our rural supermarket apparently keeps frozen turkeys from previous years. I hope this year I get a vintage turkey younger than my table wine. LOL.

    November 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  23. KD

    I'm not a fan of them anyhow. Too salty.

    November 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Shuffler

      You need to learn to prepare one correctly.

      November 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  24. palintwit

    Rather than send food and water to the Philippines, Sarah Palin has decided to send the many thousands of unsold copies of her daughter Bristol's book. She thinks that even if people are starving to death they will still enjoy the memoirs of a drunk, pregnant teenager.

    November 18, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • PQ

      Time to get off the computer and get a life.

      November 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • Dave

        PQ...Looks like a typical libtard to me....they have no life.

        November 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Dave


      November 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
      • JoeyE

        Interesting how you label that person " a loser" whom you really don't know.. who are you judging others? if that person speaks for their opinion.. let that person speak their owns as your own opinion applies others.. man you are a sore loser who thinks others are losers...

        November 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
        • Kain

          He left his opinion just like the original poster did.

          November 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
        • VladT

          His "opinion" since 2008 has been unfunny Sarah Palin jokes.

          He is a l o s e r, I'm pretty moderate and voted for Obama, but this dude has an obsession that borders on future stalker of America club.

          So, yeah, big time l o s e r

          November 19, 2013 at 4:54 am |
    • Pinkman

      Seems like someone can't comprehend the subject of the discussion? Maybe too many years on the pipe?

      November 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • VladT

      Can we send you to the Phillipines.....then maybe we'd get funny posters once in a while

      November 19, 2013 at 4:55 am |
      • palintwit

        Nobody's trying to be funny. Merely pointing out the absurdities of the teabaggers.

        November 19, 2013 at 10:02 am |
        • VladT

          ....says the m o r o n obsessed with them and Palin

          November 20, 2013 at 2:36 am |
  25. Mmmkay

    Free-Range is the only way to go. You never forget the flavor.

    November 18, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • crazyvermont

      After 35 years in the business, I'd bet a years pay I could place a free range turkey and any other on a taste panel and you couldn't differentiated. No offense, as our company has ru literally hundreds of independent taste panels and less than 2% of people pick correctly and my guess is they guessed. I have no problem with free range and we receive a premium but free range birds carry much more disease in their gut due to eating contaminated feed etc......courtesy of bird droppings etc.

      November 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
      • baltopaul

        That can't be right. If there are two choices, about half the people should guess correctly based on dumb luck.

        November 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  26. Mark Yelka

    I feel so sorry for animals that are raised to have a short, miserable life.

    November 18, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • VladT

      My turkey died taking a bullet for me when the intruders broke in, so we will honor it by shoving bread crumbs up its bum and letting him rest in a sauna all day before he is the main attraction on our table.

      You'd be ok with us eating him then,. right?

      November 19, 2013 at 4:52 am |
  27. Mark Yelka


    November 18, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  28. SixDegrees

    Tips: A) Don't buy Butterball; they're nasty. You're paying for the water they're injected with. B) If you need more than a 15-16 pound turkey, cook two smaller ones instead of a pterodactyl-size beast that will be touch and dry in comparison, and take longer to cook, too.

    November 18, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • NanaDebb

      I agree 100%. Butterball tastes like old rancid butter flavoring, and the pop up timers are NEVER accurate. Roast two, slice up one and have the other for traditional carving at table.

      November 18, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Shuffler

      Perhaps you need to learn how to prepare a bird.

      November 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
      • SixDegrees

        I already know how. Part of that knowledge is: don't use Butterball.

        November 19, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • baltopaul

      I cook 15 lbs fresh turkeys on my rotisserie grill. Works great. If we are feeding a lot of people, I get a 2nd, smaller bird for the oven, and we slice that one, like Six suggested ... or we get a goose for the oven.

      (Turkey is easy to prepare ... once you've cooked a large goose, you will laugh every time you hear someone complaining about having to cook a turkey!)

      November 18, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  29. Art Falcon

    I told you its the Turkey Apocalyps!!!!!!

    November 18, 2013 at 11:12 am |
| Part of