Bigger is better.
Unless you’re buying a Thanksgiving turkey during the second peak of a pandemic. In that case, a small-to-mid-sized turkey will most probably suffice.
Experts – including director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci – are urging people to keep their circles small this Thanksgiving. Many suggest gathering only with those already in your home circle.
“The smaller the space and the more people in the space, the more likely it is you’ll catch something,” said Henry Raymond, DrPH, an associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at Rutgers University, as well as the associate director for public health at the university’s Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.
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Which, in terms of food shopping, means smaller turkeys are much more popular this year. Those 20-plus pound turkeys made for feeding a hoard of relatives and family friends will likely be passed over for more manageable turkeys ranging from 10- to 14-pounds.
This year, fewer people (26%) are planning large gatherings as opposed to previous years (30%), according to a survey by turkey company Butterball. The same survey found that 31% of people are planning to celebrate Thanksgiving with immediate family, up from 21% typically.
Ben Del Coro, vice president of Fossil Farms in Boonton, NJ, said their most popular size turkeys this year is no different from previous years, ranging between 10 and 16 pounds. However, compared to previous years, fewer birds weighing more than 22 pounds are being sold, he said. Fossil Farms is also seeing higher demand for bone-in turkey breast.
“We shifted our production in April,” Del Coro said. “We made sure many of our turkeys would be smaller this year.”
A smart move.
Big chain stores are also adjusting for small Thanksgiving dinners. Walmart announced it has increased its selection of bone-in and boneless turkey breasts by 20% to 30% across the country.
Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture put out a guide for an intimate Thanksgiving. It suggested buying bone-in turkey breasts, turkey hens which only grow to about 8 to 16 pounds, and the usually smaller organic turkeys raised without antibiotics or steroids to boost growth.
Bob Campbell, manager of Flatbrook Farm in Sandyston, NJ, said they received frequent calls from customers asking for smaller birds this season.
“They just didn’t have the number of guests to need a 20-pound bird,” said Campbell.
Flatbrook Farm only processes about 75 turkeys a year and has managed to sell out its fresh birds, even the 25-pound ones. But, Campbell said, the diminutive ones went first.
Abma’s Farm in Wyckoff, NJ, changed their inventory this year to adjust for a lack of interest in larger birds. Normally, the farm sells turkeys that weigh more than 35 pounds. This year, reported Valerie Abma, the marketing and advertising manager, its largest turkey weighed in at 25 pounds.
The most popular size turkey at Abma’s currently ranges from 10 to 11 pounds.
“We recommend 1 to 1.5 pounds per-person – 1.5 accounts for leftovers,” said Abma. “So those ranges (10 to 11 pounds) make sense for gatherings of 10 people or less.”
Rebecca King is a food writer for NorthJersey.com. For more on where to dine and drink, please subscribe today and sign up for our North Jersey Eats newsletter.