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Butterball CEO: 'We don’t expect a shortage of turkeys' for Thanksgiving

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Jay Jandrain, Butterball CEO, tells Yahoo Finance that consumers can expect bigger birds and that turkeys will still be in supply for Thanksgiving despite inflation and supply chain challenges.

Video Transcript

- Well, after a long stretch of the past couple of years, I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but Thanksgiving is going to be a little bit costlier this year. We've been talking a lot about inflation, and the holiday is not an exception to that rule. The price of Turkey going up a bit.

Overall, the USDA laying out about a 5% rise in prices for Thanksgiving year over year. Everything. Not just the turkey, but the sides, also worth mentioning there, as well. It costs you north of 50 bucks, according to their numbers. But of course, it all comes down to the turkey on Thanksgiving dinner, at least in my opinion. So, for more on that, I want to bring on the CEO and President of butterball, Jay Jandrain, joins us right now.

And Jay, you and I were just talking. Butterball turkey is a centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal here, and we've heard some people shouting out about issues around being able to find a turkey. It doesn't necessarily seem like that's the case, might just cost you more, and there might be some pricing mixes, but what are you seeing right now as we prepare for Thanksgiving.

JAY JANDRAIN: Sure. Well, overall, we don't expect a shortage of turkeys. We do expect there will be some differences in the sizes that the customer is going to find. The smaller turkeys will be a little bit tougher to come by. But, you know, the good news, again. A larger turkey is not a problem, especially considering the fact that you have that many more-- that much more turkey left over for the next day, which is always something people look forward to, in addition to the day itself.

And then, really from the pricing standpoint, you know, the turkey price itself really hasn't changed that much. We're seeing retails very similar to what we saw last year. And then overall, keeping it within context, about $1 a pound turkey is an incredibly economical buy. So, although the bird is larger, and it may be $20 or so for the bird you're buying or the turkey you're buying, the relative cost is really quite low from a protein standpoint.

- So, if I hear you right, the takeaway here is don't panic, everybody. You're going to be able to have a turkey on the table. It's interesting to see though. I mean, you talk about supply chain issues. Everyone's been dealing with it. But, the idea that a smaller turkey might be harder to come by-- is that just because what we saw last year in terms of the pandemic, smaller gatherings, smaller Thanksgiving dinners, people didn't want bigger turkeys. How has that maybe shifted the demand spectrum for birds?

JAY JANDRAIN: Well, the smaller gathering certainly has had some impact on people looking for smaller turkeys. That makes sense. But, really the challenge was just with the supply chain and the labor force overall with the labor challenges that the entire country saw. We were certainly not unique to that. That just really caused turkeys to be a little bit older before we were able to process them. So, they grew a little bit bigger, so they're a little bit larger.

But, you know, again, the turkey is going to be there. It just may be a little larger than you want, and the good news is that next day is going to be that much better because of it.

- That's a good point. Leftover are always arguably even better than the day of feast.

JAY JANDRAIN: True.

- When you talk about maybe some of this stuff, though, backing up. I know you guys also have the butterball hotline. We've talked a lot about that. Workers and shortages there in kind of functioning the rest of the supply chain. I mean, what have you seen in kind of those disruptions early on in the year to make sure that everything goes smoothly for Thanksgiving?

JAY JANDRAIN: Well, the good news is, we start making our frozen turkeys right after Thanksgiving for the next year. So, we've had plenty of time to build our inventories. We are expecting that our shipments will be exactly as we planned for the year. We don't see any shortages with regard to Butterball's turkeys.

So, we're able to prepare for it. We had to do some different things in our end to make sure that we got enough supply put into the freezer, but that's worked out well for us overall. Right now, we've essentially shipped all of the frozen turkeys that we will for Thanksgiving. And now, we're in the process of shipping all of the fresh turkeys.

So, those went off as planned, as well. Our plants performed incredibly well. We saw great work by our teams there, and those shipments are now being delivered to the store. So, the fresh turkeys will be showing up right now.

- Yeah, I mean. Again, it's kind of interesting to see kind of the shift back to gatherings. And I don't know about you, but it might be a little-- people are rusty out there. People don't know what to talk about. It's going to be interesting to see what happens at Thanksgiving tables around the country this year.

But, when you kind of look at that, what stands out to you, I guess, and other things I know Butterball has actually done a bit of research around what makes Thanksgiving different this year. Aside from prices and the supply chain issues we've talked about, what else are you seeing from, I guess, consumers' around the Holiday in 2021?

JAY JANDRAIN: Last year really started things out differently with COVID. We saw a lot more first time hosts because were small, people weren't traveling to grandma's house or mom's house for Thanksgiving, so they had their own, whether it was with their small group or maybe some friends that they were living close to. So, we got a lot of first time hosts.

And so, that was-- you know, that works out great for us with our turkey talk line to help those people out. Help understand how to get through that meal, whether they're going online or they're calling our call center. We've got the expertise to help them through it. We're seeing a lot of that similarity this year, as well. People haven't completely gone back to normal, pre-covid.

And so we're expecting that there will still be a lot of small gatherings. But it's a great opportunity for us to really cater to the millennial group who is just having-- hosting a Thanksgiving for the first time, and we've got the vehicles in place to be able to help them get through, which can be sometimes a tenuous situation, cooking your first turkey meal. It's the most important meal of the year. But, we're there to help them out.

- Yeah, I like that. The talking turkey talk line there. Now, shifting over to TikTok to reach millennials on the platform that they're on. But, all very interesting to know here and very happy to hear that the turkeys will be available, if not just slightly more expensive. But, Jay Jandrain, appreciate you coming on here. The CEO and President at Butterball. Thanks again, and have a happy Thanksgiving.