America’s Pandemic Thanksgiving Is Almost Here And The Numbers Will Surprise You

Food & Drink

Record prices. Masked Guests. Online cranberry shopping. CDC Warnings. One thing is certain: You’ll never forget this year’s holiday.

This year, the CDC suggests Americans try a virtual Thanksgiving. Health experts across the country advised eating outside — or inside wearing masks. New York’s governor is ordering families to keep it small. In Chicago, the mayor wants to just call the whole thing off. A lot of folks aren’t listening. Tripadvisor’s Travel Index suggests more than half of Americans will be traveling for Thanksgiving.

There is very little that is typical about Thanksgiving 2020, including the holiday’s star attraction: The turkey.

Turkey sales at supermarkets are surging compared to 2019, even as restaurant shutdowns have dragged down industry sales overall. High demand combined with pandemic-restricted supply is resulting in record high prices of $1.38 per pound — 36 cents above the four-year average — though in-store discounts could help lower the overall cost at checkout.

“Demand has been very strong,” says Jay Jandrain, CEO of Butterball, the closely held company that sells a third of America’s main course every Thanksgiving. “There should be more birds on tables across the country, which certainly, that’s good for our business.”

Hormel-owned Jennie-O — the largest turkey brand in the U.S. —  is equally excited. The company’s signature oven-ready products come pre-seasoned, pre-cut and frozen in a cooking bag. It’s a big seller for first-time hosts.

“We’ve all had to adapt over the past few months,” says National Turkey Federation representative Shelby Shaw, who assures that the industry is committed to giving every American a chance to buy a bird, despite surging Covid-19 risks to production line workers. 

Here’s a look at America’s 399th Thanksgiving by the numbers.





Sources: American Turkey Federation; Butterball; Feeding America; Food and Environmental Reporting Network Covid-19 Map; Nielsen data; NRDC; Ohio State University study; USDA.

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