Are old-fashioned values and traditions heading out the window? From the print news media to casual dining nights with family, many of the traditions we enjoyed growing up are slowly losing popularity. Millennials buying habits are are shifting dollars in a way that may kill one of the most timeless American traditions of all: the 30-lb Thanksgiving turkey. They’re opting for big birds less and less often, choosing more modest selections instead.
Even if you’re not a Millennial yourself, you could still be affected. We hope you find this slightly tongue-in-cheek post useful — and Happy Thanksgiving!
• Let’s talk turkey. Bloomberg’s report shows a remarkable trend where families and singles under 30 are opting for smaller, more intimate meals. Yes, even in the South, too, where Thanksgiving dinner is an enormous affair.
• Younger buyers are still buying turkey, but they’re opting for 12 to 14-lb birds instead of the usual 30-lb behemoths. They’re also buying free-range, sustainably-grown organic meat instead of factory farmed. Free-range poultry costs more to raise, and is usually much more expensive to make up for those elevated costs, so sizing down to keep costs in line makes sense.
• But that’s not the only contributing factor. Nearly 62 percent of all American “households” contain just one or two people. In 1950, the average number was much closer to 3.5 people, and families were far more likely to have up to 10 or more extended family members visit for the meal. Fewer mouths to feed means less food is needed, including turkey.
• Some of you likely remember family Thanksgiving gatherings with 15 or 20 in attendance. Everyone found somewhere to fit in, and we were always thankful for the company. Today, those gatherings are few and far between, but they’re deeply treasured experiences for the lucky few who get to experience them.
• A closer focus on food waste may also be inspiring the shift. Larger turkeys leave more leftovers; theoretically, it may go bad before it gets eaten. Clearly, someone forgot to let the Millenials know you can cook with it and freeze it for later use!
• Lastly, today’s American families are spread out (often across multiple states) making it more difficult to get together. Parents who once needed to feed a brood of six may have only themselves to shop for; it isn’t always realistic or possible to fly home for a meal.
• As for whether or not this will really affect the food on your dinner table this Thanksgiving or next, it’s difficult to say. Industry statistics do reflect a shift in provisioning to better suit the needs of the people with the most buying power. In 2017, the U.S. Department of agriculture reported that sales of the larger turkeys were down by 8.3 percent, while sales of the smaller toms (6 lbs and under) were up 6.9 percent.
• There’s also evidence suggesting that retailers like Kroger and Trader Joe’s may be in the process of shifting their product availability to better match demands for smaller sizes. Shoppers have been reporting “shortages” of larger birds in a few different U.S. locations, but it’s unclear whether this has to do with demand or changing farming practices that limit the use of steroids and hormones. You might shop for your favorite larger turkey, only to find larger sizes simply unavailable.
• But fret not; Millennials haven’t yet gobbled up the entire industry. They’re still buying turkeys, and in fact, many seem to be creating new traditions by coming together with friends over alternatives like quail and cornish hens. Most importantly, they’re still giving thanks for what they have.
• So what can you do if you find yourself unable to access your turkey from the same retailers you always visit? Get on the gravy train to freedom with a juicy, perfectly-cooked behemoth from a local farm, your local butcher, or a local meat shop instead. They are both more likely to have larger sizes available.
• Buying local also has other benefits: you can engage in the lost art of knowing where your food comes from. In a world of recalls, contaminated meat, and food-borne epidemics, that’s something we should all be thankful for.