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Turkey sales bounce back despite impact of COVID-19 closures

A Thanksgiving turkey dinner is shown in Toronto on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Some turkey farmers are seeing an uptick in business after a drop in sales earlier in the year

Many stores have sold smaller birds and turkey roasts this year due to fewer plates at tables

The BC Turkey Farmers Association says sales are higher than last year

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — After a drop in sales earlier this year, some of the farmers behind Thanksgiving dinner are reporting an uptick in business.

Many stores have sold smaller birds and turkey roasts this year due to fewer plates at the tables as families try to limit the size of gatherings.

RELATED: B.C. urged to celebrate small, local this Thanksgiving to limit spread of COVID-19

Michel Benoit, general manager of the BC Turkey Farmers Association, says there was a 10 per cent cut in production at the beginning of the pandemic.

“As things opened up, things were definitely improving,” he says. “In fact, our retail sales were higher than last year and as we were approaching Thanksgiving, I think most people were cautiously optimistic. There’s a feeling out there that people want to enjoy things that we had before.”

He says the big brand names came together and have done a good job of predicting what the turkey market would look like during the pandemic.

However, Benoit says the second wave of COVID-19 in Canada is putting a damper on business since restaurants in some parts of the country are closing again.

RELATED: Canada at crisis point in pandemic, limit Thanksgiving dinner table: top doctor

“We’ll probably see that impact, losing some of the grounds that we gained over the summer. But, of course, the most important thing here is for people to be safe.”

He also says many stores sell birds as a loss leader before Christmas, sometimes below production costs.

“Certainly it costs a lot more than 99-cents-a-pound to raise a turkey. So when you see those prices at the grocery store, it is doing that to bring consumers into their store to buy other products.”

But Benoit says there is a high demand for local products, so he has reason to be optimistic.