Darren Ference, an Alberta turkey farmer and president of Turkey Farmers of Canada, said there had been a decline in sales at grocery stores and full-service grocery stores and local grocery stores and retailers.
“It was one of the big hits that increased our breast meat supplies and since then we’ve experienced a 10 million kilogram decrease across the country,” he told CTV News Channel on Friday.
As Canadians stay home more and cook their own meals, Ference acknowledged that there has been an increase in turkey sales in retail stores; however, he said the increase is not as big as the loss of the restaurant and deli industry, in particular.
Ference said those areas actually made up 65% of the entire industry, while the Thanksgiving and Christmas season made up the remaining 35%.
That’s why Ference and Turkey’s Turkey Farmers are hopeful that people will continue to buy turkeys for their festive dinners, even though the gatherings are smaller, to make up for the losses already suffered by farmers.
“We hope families, still under the restrictions, will still celebrate Thanksgiving in smaller family cohorts or groups… and always celebrate with turkey,” he told CTV News for the streaming app Quibi.
The farmer added that there are many different turkey options for Canadians planning a smaller holiday feast according to public health guidelines.
“It’s been a trend over the past four to five years, the shift to a smaller bird, because with millennials cooking now and families smaller than before, the gatherings have gotten smaller, so the industry has adapted and we are growing a lot. smaller or medium sized birds now compared to large giant birds for gatherings, ”he says.
While the pandemic means these family reunions may have to be even smaller, Ference said the industry has adapted to this development as well.
“There are turkey breasts that are available, just like a chicken breast, which you can bake, roast or barbecue,” he says. “I know there are a lot of stuffed roasts or fillet roasts that are available to provide a little gathering.FOOD BANKS
Although turkey production is down this year, Turkey Farmers of Canada said there could still be a surplus of birds this year if people don’t buy so many over the holidays.
If so, some of those turkey scraps could be directed to Canadian food banks as part of the Federal Surplus Food Rescue Program. The temporary program was launched as part of the government’s response to the pandemic and aims to manage and redirect existing surpluses to organizations that fight food insecurity with the aim of avoiding food waste.
To date, the government has purchased approximately 615 tonnes of turkey worth nearly $ 3.8 million, most of which goes to Food Banks Canada.
Ference said he thinks this is a great way to take advantage of any industry surplus.
Neil Hetherington, CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank, agrees the surplus program will provide much needed help to food banks during the holiday season, a particularly busy time for them.
Turkeys will be particularly well received this year at the Daily Bread Food Bank, where donations have fallen by 70%. Hetherington said he hopes that starts to change and that Canadians give more over the holidays.
“People are sheltering in place so they’re nervous about donating food,” he told CTV News for the streaming app Quibi.
“So in this case… we’re going to set up, basically, a line of conga cars that families can drive… so that individuals can safely make that food contribution so that we can get it sorted, taken out quickly,” and effectively to those who need it. I am therefore optimistic.