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Birds ‘fly' off store shelves in Clayton County

By Paul Frysh

Just days before Thanksgiving, there are still plenty of turkeys to be had at local supermarkets and prices are generally in line with last year. Frozen turkeys are selling for about 69 cents a pound, and fresh ones going from 99 cents a pound to as much as $1.49 a pound for a Butterball brand turkey.

Clayton County stores report they still have plenty of turkeys and hams and other Thanksgiving fare for those who still haven't made that annual trek to the grocery store.

In addition, some businesses are selling the already prepared turkeys and hams for those who don't want to cook their own.

“Ninety Eight percent of people celebrating Thanksgiving will have a turkey at the center of the table,” said Sherrie Rosenblatt at the National Turkey Federation. That's a lot of turkeys - 46 million to be exact. There are several different varieties from which to choose.

One variety is the growing niche market for organic turkeys. Last year, some managers in the Southern Crescent, expecting big demand, stocked the shelves with free-range organic turkeys. But locals balked at prices upward of $2 a pound and managers had to almost give the birds away when they didn't sell. Many stores didn't even stock any of the organic birds this year, though they were usually available as a special order.

The big item this year has been “freezer to oven” turkeys. These turkeys come already seasoned and dressed, so all you have to do is put them in the oven and wait. At around $2 a pound, they cost just as much as last year's organic birds, but customers clearly see the convenience as an added value that is worth the money

You can even get a skinless, boneless version of these specialty birds for around $5 a pound.

The turkey industry still depends on Thanksgiving for a huge percentage of its sales, but not nearly as much as past years.

“It used to be that 50 percent of turkey sales were done in the last quarter of the year, mostly due to Thanksgiving,” said the NTF's Rosenblatt. But now, only about 30 percent of sales happen in the last quarter, even as turkey sales continue to increase. Turkey sandwiches, turkey burgers, turkey filets and even turkeys sausages have contributed to changing consumer attitudes.

According to Rosenblatt, “Turkey is not just for Thanksgiving anymore.”

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On the net:

National Turkey Federation

http://www.eatturkey.com