Smaller birds for a smaller Thanksgiving, says local farmer

A large Thanksgiving dinner with extended family won't likely be on the table this year, given the second wave of COVID-19.

Keeping social circles tight will mean more intimate gatherings

The turkeys at Sylvain Bertrand's farm in western Quebec are smaller than in previous years — making them ideal for a more intimate Thanksgiving celebration during COVID-19. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

With Ontarians being urged to keep social circles tight and Quebecers being told to cancel Thanksgiving plans, a large dinner with extended family isn't really on the table this year.

But a tighter circle might at least come with tighter waistlines.

Sylvain Bertrand, owner of a farm in Val-des-Monts, Que., says that not only did he choose to raise fewer turkeys this year, but the individual birds are smaller than normal.

"We know that it's going to be less profitable than usual," the Outaouais farmer told CBC Radio's In Town And Out Saturday.

Bertrand's farm, Ferme aux Saveurs des Monts, has raised turkeys for approximately 20 years.

While they intentionally chose to reduce the size of this year's flock when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there was also a squeeze at the hatchery in April and May — which meant a delay in receiving eggs, Bertrand said.

Given it takes approximately six months to hatch and fully raise a turkey, that means his birds will be a more appropriate size for any Thanksgiving dinners next weekend.

"When you have a turkey of 20 pounds, you need about 30 people around the table to be able to eat that," he said. 

"So now, since we're going to have about 11 [or] 12 weeks of growth ... we will [have turkeys that are] about 10 to 12 pounds."

Typically raises 600 birds for Thanksgiving 

The farm would typically raise 600 turkeys for Thanksgiving, and double that for Christmas.

Not only has Bertrand's farm cut those numbers back, but it's also only raising female birds, which are generally considered meatier than the males.

He believes the smaller, plumper birds will be ample for this year's festivities. 

"In farming, we have to have to adapt all the time," Bertrand said. "Whether it's COVID, it's temperature, it's markets —you have to think about some [way] to reduce the risk."

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