Turkey consumption (disappearance) per person is on track to decline for the second consecutive year. This year's decline is projected to be 0.3 pounds, on a retail weight basis, and follows 2017’s reduction of 0.2 pounds. That contrasts with 2018’s beef consumption that is pegged to be up 0.1 pounds and pork increasing by 0.5 pounds, both on a retail weight basis. The modest rise in beef consumption this year followed a 1.4 pound jump-up last year. Chicken consumption is expanding even faster, posting annual gains of 1.2 and 1.7 pounds per person in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
The problem for turkey is that prices at the wholesale and retail levels declined in 2017 and again in 2018. But, lower prices have done little to spur consumer interest in the product. This year, using the retail prices calculated by USDA’s Economic Research Service, the turkey industry has responded to the market situation with whole bird prices during the first ten months of this year down 4.5% from the same interval of 2017. That decline is significant when matched-up against retail beef and pork price trends this year, with fresh beef prices moving 0.6% higher while pork prices were 1.0% lower.
For 2018’s first quarter, disappearance fell by 0.2 pounds year-over-year. Then, spring quarter consumption raised some hopes, topping the same quarter in 2017 by almost 0.1 pounds. Summer quarter performance did not reinforce spring’s results (consumption slipped by 0.1 pounds).
Whole birds underpin turkey consumption for the fourth quarter for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, consumption appears to be following the trend of prior quarters. Wholesale turkey prices have been priced 20% lower than 2017’s, which should garner some attention. Wholesale ham prices started the year similar to twelve months earlier, but moved to 20% discount to prior year by the summer quarter, thereby limiting the attractiveness of the lowest wholesale turkey prices since 2009.