Nfld. & Labrador

Gobble gobble hey! Newfoundland turkey shoppers cry fowl over shortage

With a city full of supermarkets it's hard to swallow the idea that St. John's could be facing a turkey shortage, but that's exactly what's happening.

Supply took a hit thanks to panic-buying over the past 2 weeks

For a few days in St. John's, finding a turkey wasn't easy. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

With a city full of supermarkets it's hard to swallow the idea St. John's could be facing a turkey shortage, but that's exactly what's happening. 

Everyone was gobbling up every turkey in sight weeks before Thanksgiving, said Greg Gill, marketing vice-president of Coleman's grocery stores.

"It's a real thing," he said. "Families are looking for turkey, so sometimes it's a challenge to get supply. "

Gill said this year has been a challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in the cost of turkey feed. 

Still, Gill said the Newfoundland-owned and operated grocer will have enough turkeys at its 13 Newfoundland stores.

"We have ample supply," he said. "I think if families are looking to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner they should be OK."

While there might have been a temporary shortage of Thanksgiving birds, store bins should be stocked this week. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

But it's not just Coleman's. In an email, a Sobeys spokesperson said the chain saw an increase in frozen turkey sales last week but that has replenished its supply to meet the demand of shoppers. 

The shortage is apparently a problem in Newfoundland and Labrador, though.

"We haven't noticed anything like that to the same degree in any other part of the country," said Darren Ference, vice-chair of the Turkey Farmers of Canada. 

The organization plans nearly a year in advance to make sure there are enough turkeys to fill shopping carts on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it did notice a bit of lull in supply last month. 

"[Our inventories] were lower on Sept. 1 but there will be growth and there will be fresh product coming in the time period prior to Thanksgiving," Ference said. 

Coleman's marketing vice-president Greg Gill is confident his stores will be able to supply turkeys this week. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

So what sparked the turkey-buying frenzy in Newfoundland? Social media sites had posts about people walking out of stores with carts filled with six to eight turkeys, far more than a family could possibly eat.

"What we don't want to have is the type of panic-buying that we've seen throughout the pandemic for other items like toilet tissue," Gill said.

Throughout St. John's, turkeys could barely make it to the coolers on grocery stores before people flocked to get their hands on them.  For days people were seen lining up outside grocery stores before they opened.

Due to the spike in demand some chain grocery stores have put limits on how many turkeys a shopper can buy. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

That prompted some grocery stores to limit the number of turkeys a shopper could take home to one or two per person.

Coleman's is taking a wait and see approach, said Gill.

"What we're really trying to accomplish is to make sure that anybody wants to buy a turkey for their family gathering that we have one for them." 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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