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Published: Wednesday, 11/16/2005

Retailers hold turkey prices low

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
John Glass selects a frozen turkey from the promotional brand at Kroger on Suder Avenue. John Glass selects a frozen turkey from the promotional brand at Kroger on Suder Avenue.
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Wholesale turkey prices are higher this year than last as increased exports tighten supply, but that hasn't stopped grocery stores from continuing to lure shoppers with low prices on the traditional Thanksgiving table's main dish.

Retail prices for frozen birds typically dip far below wholesale prices this time of year, and shoppers compare specials to get the best deals.

"It's about ingrained now," said David Harvey, poultry analyst with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. "People are looking for those."

At Kroger, for example, Riverside frozen turkeys weighing at least 18 pounds cost 37 cents a pound if the shopper buys an additional $20 in merchandise.

Similarly sized store-brand frozen turkeys at Giant Eagle, meanwhile, are 36 cents a pound without any other purchase, and fresh or frozen birds of various brands weighing more than 16 pounds at Meijer are $15 off with an additional $10 purchase.

Fresh turkeys are preferred by some for the holiday. Fresh turkeys are preferred by some for the holiday.
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Wholesale turkeys last month were a little more than 80 cents a pound, about a nickel higher than a year ago, Mr. Harvey said.

Although production increased slightly - Minnesota, North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, and California are the nation's top turkey states- strong export sales, primarily to Mexico, have increased prices, he said.

Deep discounts almost always are on frozen turkeys, not those that are fresh, all natural, organic, or heritage breeds, Mr. Harvey said.

Fresh turkeys, however, are the stars of some holiday tables.

Zachel Turkey Farm north of Morenci, Mich., is selling fresh turkeys this year for $1.35 a pound. The farm didn't raise as many turkeys this year because some wholesale buyers went to markets elsewhere and some customers don't want to pick up processed birds, said John Zachel, owner.

"I cut back a little bit because I want to see how the market will be this year," he said.

Sautter's 5-Star Market features fresh Albright turkeys at $1.99 a pound, about the same as last year. Although the Sylvania supermarket carries other fresh turkeys at $1.69 a pound, Albrights are the most popular, said Bob Cousino, meat cutter.

"We get a ton of compliments every year," he said. "They're so clean."

For several decades Albright turkeys were raised farm near Norwalk, but a turkey outfit from New Carlisle, Ohio, bought and moved the operation's production and processing after Dick Albright retired last year. The Albright name lives on in Albright Turkeys Inc., and a warehouse remains in Willard, said Carl Bowman, co-owner.

Judging by the number of stores calling about fresh turkeys, there is plenty of demand, Mr. Bowman said.

"There's really not enough supply" he said.

Contact Julie M. McK innon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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