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Turkey Farmers Say Shortage Of Workers Will Delay Production

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The holidays are right around the corner and that means looking for the right turkey for the dinner table. But the turkey company Butterball is concerned there may be a shortage in supply this year.

CBS 2's Jackie Kostek visited a turkey farm in Dundee. They are working very hard to make sure that they can keep up with demand. After speaking to several farmers, they say It's not just the labor, it's the people it takes to get the turkey from the farm to your table that is the problem.

For well over a century, Harrison's Poultry Farm has been making sure one of Thanksgiving's most important guests arrives to the family dinner on time.

"Everything that goes into producing turkey has made it harder this year, especially labor."

Kyle Zimmerman and his brother took over the family business during the pandemic. He says national supply chain issues have increased many costs, but he credits long-standing relationships with small farms for not having an issue with supply.

"We're placing chicken orders every day. Where turkey orders, we get a few deliveries every week throughout the year and then our Thanksgiving order, we have so much time to plan for it and so do the farms," Zimmerman said.

Robert Kauffman runs Ho-Ka Turkey Farms in Waterman, Illinois. He says the problem isn't the turkeys. It's having the people to dress them - take the feathers off and get them ready to cook.

"I've been real worried about getting temporary help for the dressing season," Kauffman said.

He says he raises about 60,000 turkeys a year, most of which are sold in November. He usually brings in about 100 temporary workers. Right now, he has seven.

"I can dress with a skeleton crew but I don't like to. And I won't get the numbers I need. If I have a nice full dressing line, we can do maybe 2,500 birds a day. The pace I like to have," said Kauffman.

So how early is too early to stake claim to a Thanksgiving turkey?

"We're taking orders currently and we are noticing that a lot more orders are coming in this year than normal. I do think we will sell out early," Zimmerman said.

The owner of the farm in Dundee said turkeys are just a small part of his business but says they've already sold out of their presale turkeys; that's about 250. He'll have another couple hundred for resale close to thanksgiving.

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