WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Turkey prices are down and while that may be good for people buying their Thanksgiving meal, it is a challenge for the industry in West Michigan.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small visited Michigan Turkey in Wyoming Friday afternoon to speak with local producers.
“It’s been quite a lot of fluctuations in the turkey market over the last two years,” Brian Boerigter, the CEO of Michigan Turkey, said.
Declining turkey prices have meant a need to increase efficiency at the Michigan Turkey cooperative, which processes about 5.5 million turkeys a year into a number of products. The impact of avian influenza last year reduced supply in the country’s turkey market. This year, that supply has recovered and prices are down.
“A lot of turkeys were lost to (avian flu) last year. That had the markets high, but the markets have come down substantially, so maximizing our efficiencies and our costs are key,” Boerigter said.
This facility does not process Thanksgiving turkeys, which are also less expensive this year than last. The Farm Bureau says prices for frozen whole turkeys are down about 22% from last year.
The deputy secretary for the USDA toured Michigan Turkey’s new building, which was funded with the help of a $1.5 million grant. Investments in a hot water system, wastewater treatment equipment and four refrigerated trailers should help reduce costs.
“Farmers can address their bottom line when it comes down to driving down energy costs while also working to expand access to renewable energy. It’s a win-win both when it comes to the economy, when it comes to driving down their costs and also addressing climate change,” Torres Small said.
West Michigan turkey farmers say efficiency is important with labor and other operating costs up.
“Our input costs are commodity driven: corn and soybeans. And our output costs is, too. The finished product, that is a commodity in itself. So not having control over those two markets but having to make sure that you make the product that comes out can be difficult,” said Curtis Walcott of Walcott Farms, a turkey farm near Allendale.