Your Christmas Turkey Is Pricier This Year Thanks to Covid-19

Americans are paying more for their holiday hams and turkeys this year. And it’s all down to the pandemic.

Meat plants are operating with fewer workers as packers try to avoid a repeat of this spring, when thousands of employees caught the virus, prompting plant closures. That means some labor-intensive tasks such as slicing ham off the bone have fallen by the wayside while workers focus on slaughtering animals.

The lingering issues have helped to prop up meat prices and have draw down reserves from cold storage. Consumers staying away from sit-down restaurants have also bolstered prices, as well sales at grocery stores and other retail outlets. That’s even as family gatherings are set to be smaller.

Your Christmas Turkey Is Pricier This Year Thanks to Covid-19

For country hams, average prices in the U.S. were $3.82 per pound in the week ended Dec. 12, according to Nielsen data. That’s up 6.5% for the same week a year ago. Meanwhile, turkey breasts were fetching an average of $2.93 per pound, up 8.2%.

The higher retail prices come even as values in the wholesale market decline, with more meat hitting the market.

“Retail prices for meat and poultry items often do not adjust at the
same rate that prices adjust for live animals,” the Daily Livestock Report stated Monday. “Cutout values for pork and beef have come down substantially since the second quarter and yet food prices have remained elevated.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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