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Thanksgiving shoppers may not find everything on their grocery list

How supply shortages will impact Thanksgiving
How supply shortages will make Thanksgiving dinner more expensive 06:49

Americans already bracing themselves for the strain of forking over more money for their Thanksgiving feasts are now being told to be ready to make substitutions. The reason? Supply-chain headaches could make it hard to find everything on your grocery list.

Stocks of food and other household basics are less ample than usual, thanks in part to global supply disruptions that are also driving up food prices. Meanwhile, consumers are shopping earlier this year for the holiday meal, moving up the usual timetable by several weeks. 

"Turkeys, pies, stuffing mixes — these are things people are buying early," Krishnakumar Davey, president of client engagement at IRI, a provider of purchasing, social and other data, told CBS MoneyWatch. "If you're finicky about what you use, you might not be able to get it." 

In supermarkets, stocks of whole-bird turkeys were running at 39% as of October 31, while a quarter of grocery store vegetable aisles were out of sweet potatoes and yams, according to IRI's rundown. Aerosol whipped toppings were more readily available, with an in-stock rate of 88%, and cranberry sauce can be found in eight out of every 10 stores, on average, IRI found. 

One of the country's largest suppliers of cranberry sauce, Ocean Spray, has acknowledged supply-chain troubles, including a shortage of core materials and transportation issues. "While we do not anticipate significant impacts, consumers may experience some availability issues at times," a spokesperson for the 700-farm cooperative told CBS MoneyWatch in an email.

Food pantries struggle amid supply chain shortages 02:05

Frozen pies and pastry shells are also potential trouble spots, with in-stock rates at 83% and 81%, respectively, according to IRI. Overall, in-stock rates are running at roughly 80%, about 10 percentage points below usual. That shouldn't cause consumers to rush to the store, but it might mean not waiting around in hopes of finding a deal.

"If you're waiting for a promotion, don't," Davey advised. 

Early shopping advised

Limited, and pricier, supplies come as more people plan to play host this Thanksgiving. Nearly one in three, or 37%, of adults plan to have 10 or more family and friends over for the holiday this year, according to a recent Instacart/Harris poll of nearly 5,000 adults.

About half of those hosting, or at least bringing a dish, are concerned about getting all the ingredients. Nearly a third said they planned to start buying what they needed before the end of October, the surveys found.

"To ensure you're able to get everything you need on your Thanksgiving shopping list, we strongly recommend starting your grocery shopping earlier than usual this year," Laurentia Romaniuk, Instacart's trends expert, stated in a news release. "We recommend that people start shopping for their non-perishable and frozen ingredients in early November and load up on fresh ingredients as far out from the Thanksgiving holiday as feasible."

Butterball, the nation's single biggest turkey supplier, has seen "early and brisk" sales of whole birds. 

"With two weeks left until Thanksgiving, we can affirm that there will be Butterball turkeys available in stores this season, but we do anticipate that smaller turkeys might be more difficult to find," said a spokesperson for the company, which represents about one-third of the turkey sold at Thanksgiving.

Major run on turkeys

Thanksgiving turkeys are officially sold out at Hurd Farm, a 700-bird outfit in Hampton, New Hampshire. And, while it's not unusual to have run out of turkeys by early November, demand is running far higher than normal, owner Stephen Hurd told CBS MoneyWatch. "I'm having a lot more people calling and asking for it."

This year's "turkey season has been like no other," according to Pounds Turkey Farm in Leechburg, Pennsylvania. "Orders have come in at an incredible pace and based upon our estimations we are already sold out of fresh turkey and breast items. This generally happens in mid-November, not October," the farm stated on its website. 

"We have suspended taking orders right now," Beverly Pounds of Pounds Turkey Farm in Leechburg, Pennsylvania, told the local CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh. The farm is selling a total of about 7,000 birds, most of them weighing between 10 and 12 pounds, she said.

Holiday travel set to reach close to pre-pandemic levels 03:09

Turkey production was down 2.4% through September from the year-ago period, and increasing hatchings to meet a rebound in demand has proved slow. That's up 2% in August and 1% in September after declining 4.2% during the first seven months of the year, according to a recent report by Steiner Consulting Group. 

"The rebound in hatchery output will not be soon enough to boost turkey production significantly for Thanksgiving but should be available for the Christmas market," the Steiner analysts noted. The turkey industry moved more whole birds into cold storage between July and October than in any year since 2009, with the increased frozen supplies spelling minimal problems for the December holiday, they added.

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