Unexpectedly Intriguing!
21 November 2023
farm turkeys, photograph, highly detailed, photorealistic, 4k, digital art concept - Source: Microsoft Bing Image Creator

In 2022, American poultry farmers were in crisis.

Thanks to outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), entire flocks of chickens and turkeys on U.S. farms had to be culled to limit the spread of the highly infectious and deadly virus in early 2022. Before its spread abated, HPAI claimed the lives of approximately 36 million chickens, turkeys, and other game birds raised on U.S. farms. Among U.S. turkey producers, the population of turkeys plummeted from 216.5 million in 2021 to 210 million in 2022.

But in 2023, the domesticated turkey population rebounded to an estimated 219 million. That puts the number of turkeys raised in the United States back up the the level it was between 2020 and 2021.

That's also the third-lowest figure recorded since 1987, when the low-fat diet craze of the 1980s prompted a surge of demand for turkey among American consumers. It is also generally in line with the downward trend that has been in place since 1996, when the population of farm-raised turkeys peaked at 302.7 million.

Number of Turkeys Raised on U.S. Farms, 1970-2022 with Estimate for 2023

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the average weight of a live turkeys being raised on U.S. farms in 2023 is 32.0 pounds (14.5 kg). That figure is up from the 31.7 pounds (14.4 kg) recorded in 2022, but falls a little over three percent below the record average live weight of 33.1 pounds (15.0 kg) set in 2021.

Average Live Weight of U.S. Farm-Raised Turkeys, 1970-2022 with Estimate for 2023

Assuming that average live weight estimate holds, the combined live weight of all turkeys raised in the U.S. during 2023 will total a little over 7 billion pounds (3.175 billion kg). That 5.3% increase from 2022's figure would be the fourth lowest annual total of the period since 1996, when U.S. turkey production first exceeded the 7.0 billion pound threshold.

Total Live Weight of Turkeys Produced, 1970-2022 with Estimate for 2023

The American Farm Bureau Federation puts the price of a 16-pound (7.26 kg) ready-to-cook turkey at $27.35 in 2023, which is down 5.6% from 2022's cost of $28.96. That figure however is over 41% more expensive than the $19.39 American consumers paid for the same size turkey in 2020.

Stay tuned for our next entry, when we'll look at the changing cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner since 2020.


U.S. Department of Agriculture. Turkeys Raised. [PDF Document]. 27 September 2023.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meat statistics tables, recent. Table 3 - Livestock and poultry live and dressed weights. [Excel Spreadsheet]. 27 October 2023.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Poultry - Production and Value. 2022 Summary. [PDF Document]. April 2023.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE - 642). U.S. Quarterly Animal Product Production. Nov Proj. Turkey (Ready To Cook Weight, millions of pounds). [PDF Document]. 9 November 2023.

Image credit: Microsoft Bing Image Creator. Prompt: "farm turkeys, photograph, highly detailed, photorealistic, 4k, digital art concept".

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