Toi Degree: Alternatives to turkey for Thanksgiving

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2022

By Toi Degree
N.C. Cooperative Extension

November is almost here, so it’s time to begin planning for Thanksgiving dinner and shopping. As you begin your process, here is one thing that I think you need to be mindful of. Thanksgiving 2022 is shaping up to be a tough one for turkey. The star of the holiday meal will be both hard to find and more expensive than ever.

Several conditions have led to this beginning as far back as 2019 when turkey producers began to cut back on raising the birds after turkey prices crashed. Then in 2020, the pandemic hit further curtailing production. Currently, inflation has pushed up the price of whole turkeys. And then, there’s the avian flu that has killed at least 3.6% of the nation’s turkeys or about 7.3 million birds this year according to the Department of Agriculture.

So, if finding a turkey becomes difficult, here are a few options that you might want to consider in place of a turkey.

• Roast chicken — According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI report for September 2022, the whole fresh chicken will only set you back $2.11 per pound. That’s a tremendous savings compared to turkey. Having a chicken will allow you to still make all the traditional Thanksgiving sides — including mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing and vegetables — as they will complement the flavor of chicken as well as turkey. Plus, you’ll still get the most coveted part of your Thanksgiving meal: drumsticks! You’ll even get a wishbone to break if that is part of your family tradition.

• Fresh ham — Ham is often on the menu for Christmas or Easter. Like turkey or roast chicken, fresh ham goes well with traditional Thanksgiving sides of mashed potatoes, gravy and freshly baked rolls and is the perfect fall meal.

• Roast beef — You might not think a hearty roast beef would cost less than your turkey dinner, but it does. USDA Choice round roast is $6.35 per pound, which is a little less than fresh turkey. And again, you can pair it with all the traditional sides, including mashed potatoes, rolls and gravy.

• Spiral-sliced or glazed ham — Keeping in mind the (relatively) low price of pork this year, spiral-sliced or glazed ham is another great option for your Thanksgiving table. If you opt for a boneless variety, which will cook faster and be easier to carve, you can expect to spend an average of $5.92 per pound, but a bone-in spiral ham will run under $5 per pound.

Here are the price changes and predictions for Thanksgiving 2019 to 2022. The estimated wholesale price for a hen, the bird most people eat for Thanksgiving, is $1.85 a pound, about 40 cents higher than a year ago. At the beginning of 2019, it was 90 cents.

This week, the average retail price for a frozen turkey is $1.99 a pound, according to the agriculture department’s weekly turkey report. That is up 73% from 2021. I hope you can find a turkey for Thanksgiving but if not, consider one of the alternatives above.

For more information or assistance with your Thanksgiving turkey, here is some links to additional factsheets and the Meat and Poultry Hotline:


Toi N. Degree is family and consumer education agent for Rowan County Extension. Contact her at 704-216-8970 or

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