ALLENDALE – An increase in alternative proteins has turkey growers “scrambling to be profitable again.”
That’s according to Harley Sietsema, founder and co-owner of the Allendale-based Sietsema Farms Inc., and chair of Michigan Turkey Producers LLC, a Grand Rapids-based turkey co-operative.
“Because of more and more proteins, it seems like there has been a slight decline” in turkey consumption, Sietsema told Michigan Farm News this week, adding that, originally, the Michigan Turkey Producers “had agreed upon an objective” to market 20 pounds of turkey per capita by the end of 2020.
“With the additional proteins increasing dramatically (and) because the market isn’t there, the target was not going to be successful,” he said. “At Michigan Turkey (Producers), there’s been a slight reduction of placement of Michigan turkeys. … The (20-pound) objective has been basically tabled with everyone scrambling to become profitable again. It’s a matter of supply and demand … (and) we oversupplied for a few years.
“That happened at Michigan Turkey and in the industry in general.”
According to data from the Livestock Marketing Information Center, turkey consumption is on track to decline for the second consecutive year, down about .3 pounds on a retail basis from 2017. This is compared to beef consumption, which, according to the report, is up .1 pounds, and pork consumption, which is up .5 pounds on a retail basis.
Chicken consumption – like beef and pork – is expanding, too, “posting annual gains of 1.2 and 1.7 pounds per person in 2017 and 2018, respectively,” according to the report.
“The problem for turkey is that prices at the wholesale and retail levels declined in 2017 and again in 2018,” the report notes. “But, lower prices have done little to spur consumer interest in the product.”
Accordingly, retail prices from the USDA's Economic Research Service indicate whole bird prices during the first 10 months of 2018 are down 4.5 percent year-over-year.
“It’s not a big number, but in the grand scheme (of things), it does have an effect,” said Sietsema, who raised 1.3 million tom turkeys in 2018. “Whether or not we raise more turkeys has to do with our turkey sales at Michigan Turkey. With the increased availability of alternative proteins, there has been some slight reduction on the part of the (turkey) industry in general, because the industry overshot its expectations.”
According to Ernie Birchmeier, livestock and dairy specialist for the Michigan Farm Bureau, “there is certainly plenty of protein (meat) in the industry right now, and consumers have an abundance of choices.”
“We have seen expanded beef, pork and poultry production in the region which has led to a stockpile of meat,” Birchmeier added. “It appears as though that trend will continue for a while; with that in mind, it is very advantageous for companies like Michigan Turkey Producers to have the ability to rein in supply to meet demand.”
As a parting note, Birchmeier said that because meat can be purchased for affordable prices, “it just might be a good time for consumers to stock the freezer.”
“An extra turkey for the holidays isn’t a bad idea; and you will be supporting our great turkey farmers in Michigan,” he said. “A little extra demand can go a long way toward balancing the supply and returning a level of profitability to the industry.”