Drought could make Thanksgiving more expensive


At Willie Bird Restaurant in Santa Rosa, diners can get exotic turkey dishes like turkey parmesan, turkey teriyaki, or turkey and oysters. The birds they cook are farmed just up the road from the restaurant in Santa Rosa. Most of their whole birds go to direct delivery or specialty outlets. Otherwise, they're just like ranchers everywhere who are dealing with the rising prices of feed.

At Santa Rosa's Willie Bird turkey ranch, 50,000 turkeys roam 400 acres of land between May and December. The free-range turkeys eat feed made from corn and soybeans, a lot of it, 17 to 18 tons every month. The drought ravaging corn and soybean crops means Willie Bird is paying about $800 more per ton.

Willie Bird is both a wholesaler and retailer. General Manager Greg "Beagle" Brodsky says it's hard to say what the average increase will be, but there will be one. "I've spoken to some people in the commodity market and the people that put out the pricing and he's already seeing turkeys that are starting to come out on the market maybe 20 to 30 cents a pound more than what they would normally be priced at on the wholesale basis," he said.

"I would still buy a turkey, but I might buy a smaller one," said Arthur Carpenter of Santa Rosa. Substituting with chicken or beef won't save you anything. Those prices are on the rise for the same reasons, especially beef, which relies heavily on corn-based feed.

Brodsky thinks that around Thanksgiving time, some of the larger grocers might still offer shoppers a great deal on turkeys, and try to make up the revenue on other items.

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