Local ranch works to make sure turkeys are on Thanksgiving tables amid shortage

Home for the Holidays

SONORA, Calif. (KTXL) — While thousands of local turkeys are headed to nearby stores this Thanksgiving, shoppers may still have trouble finding the one they’re looking for this holiday. 

“A lot of the very larger players didn’t have the labor in the summer or maybe didn’t have the supplies in the summer to process all of those small frozen turkeys,” explained Heidi Diestel, whose family has been raising turkeys in Sonora for four generations and whose ranch is managing some of the shortages seen worldwide. “We’ve struggled to get boxes and packaging and CO2.”

Diestel Turkey Ranch is considered small by industry standards and that’s worked to their advantage in a few ways. When FOX40 visited Friday, 13 days away from Thanksgiving, 3,300 hens were about one day away from heading to the refrigerator section – not the freezer aisle.

“Because we are smaller we have a lot of programs that are more fresh or deep chilled programs versus strictly frozen programs,” Diestel said. “So a lot of the inventory reporting is based on the frozen inventory, whereas our inventory wouldn’t have been put up yet.”

That means while many mega-farms are packaging turkeys in summer, Diestel is harvesting turkeys in the fall, having had a heads up about the struggles to come. 

“We kind of foresaw some of the changes because we produce later so we saw some of the challenges the industry was facing at large, so we got extra vendors on hand to help supply. We kind of pivoted on a few packages that were in greater supply,” Diestel told FOX40.

Diestel said that while their farm overwhelmingly sells to stores, concerns about supply have customers contacting Diestel directly.

“I think there will be enough product as long as we have drivers to get them everywhere they need to go, but they’re probably going to be a unique variety of sizes and if you’re waiting a few days before Thanksgiving you may not get exactly the size you’re looking for,” she said.

So, as seems to be a piece of recurring advice this holiday season, if you are particular about which turkey ends up on your table, plan ahead.

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