WILMOT, Ohio — Many families are scaling back their Thanksgiving plans this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That means they probably don’t need that 25-pound turkey at dinner.
In some ways, raising smaller birds affects the bottom line for local farmers.
It's one of the busiest times of the year for Trevor Clatterbuck, the owner of Wholesome Valley Farm in Wilmot, Holmes County.
“We sell out of turkeys every year,” Clatterbuck said.
Last year, that was 1,250 turkeys.
This year, he’s hoping to sell 1,500 - with 825 already preordered.
“Right now, we are seeing that we have a strong demand for smaller turkeys. I wouldn't say it's unusual for any year though,” Clatterbuck said.
Clatterbuck said demand for small birds is high every year because a lot of people are afraid to cook a big bird. So to keep customers happy, last year, they ordered their flock with the intention of raising them in two separate batches in 2020.
The first started in July and the second in August.
“While we will have more small birds this year than in previous years, I didn’t have the success with them that I had hoped for,” Clatterbuck said. “The younger turkey just isn't hardy enough yet to survive a cold September night or a wet October night.”
Pasture-raised turkeys that live in outdoor conditions, like the ones at Wholesome Valley Farms, typically huddle together and pile on top of one another to stay warm during cold or rainy nights. Clatterbuck said the small ones at the bottom of the heap often don’t survive.
Plus, raising small birds is not that profitable for farms either.
“The price of the chick from the hatchery is the same for a small bird and a big bird and so is the price to slaughter the bird,” Clatterbuck said. “If you have a bird that's 13 pounds versus one that's 26 pounds. My fixed costs are over double in that bird that’s 13 pounds.”
No matter the size, small or large, all of the turkeys on the farm will be heading out for harvest in two weeks, right in time for Thanksgiving.
“Oh, for us, we're probably over 500 right now,” Adam Lambert, co-owner of Ohio City Provisions, said.
Some of the birds from Wholesome Valley Farm are distributed to Ohio City Provisions, a butcher shop owned by Clatterbuck and Lambert.
Pre-orders for small birds have already sold out, but they’re providing other options.
“We can take your whole bird, we can cut it down into different parts and pieces for you so that you can roast off, you know, a breast and the leg may be, and then save some for a later purpose,” Lambert said. “We also offer different types of cut turkey, we'll do a breast roast, which is smaller obviously than a whole turkey for less people.”
But at the end of the day, Clatterbuck said, what’s there is there. He’s confident the farm will sell out of turkeys again this year.
“People have to take what turkey they get,” Clatterbuck said. “I mean at the end of the day like who can complain about having too much delicious turkey meat.”
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