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Consumers could find good deals on holiday dinner fare

Turkey Sullivan GettyImages 452135 Turkey Sullivan GettyImages 452135
SONOMA, CA - NOVEMBER 26: With less than one week before Thanksgiving, a turkey sits in a barn at the Willie Bird Turkey Farm November 26, 2013 in Sonoma, California. An estimated forty six million turkeys are cooked and eaten during Thanksgiving meals in the United States. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Texas Crop and Weather Report – Nov. 20, 2018

Consumers could see lower prices on holiday hams and turkeys this year, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Dr. David Anderson, AgriLife Extension economist in College Station, said wholesale prices on typical holiday fare such as whole turkeys and hams were even lower than last year due to consumer preference, higher production and trade issues. 

“It’s that time of year again that we’re talking turkeys and hams,” he said. “Prices keep falling. The whole turkey industry has been struggling to find where demand will be and how much to produce. Part of it is that consumers are trying new things like prime rib or hams and briskets. Whole birds are a big part of the industry, and they’re having difficulty gauging demand.”

Anderson said wholesale prices on whole turkeys this year have continued to fall to 80 cents per pound compared to 83 cents per pound last year. Whole turkeys have continued to decline overall from the five-year average of $1.15 per pound. Wholesale ham prices are lower this year as well at 51 cents per pound compared to 75 cents per pound last year and an 80-cent average over the past five years.

Normally, prices peak leading up to Thanksgiving, Anderson said, but prices have been relatively flat for the past 18 months.

Anderson said declining ham prices are likely due to record pork production in 2018. The pork industry also faced tariffs in China and Mexico, which have contributed to higher supplies and the price slide.

“Hams are very competitively priced alongside turkey,” he said. “As grocery retailers set up their strategies to draw consumers into their stores, we may see below-wholesale pricing or very good specials on hams and turkeys.”

Consumers who want to try alternative meats, specifically lamb and beef, will pay premium prices, he said. Wholesale prices on ribeye steaks, for instance, are $9 per pound.  

Anderson said there is also a rising trend among U.S. households that order prepared specialty hams and turkeys smoked or cured and shipped to order.

Anderson said the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual price survey of classic Thanksgiving fare – including turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, milk, whipping cream, rolls and other items — revealed holiday dinner in 2018 would be the most affordable since 2010, $48.90 on average for a family of 10.

“Those lower prices follow much of the trends among agriculture commodities,” he said. “When it comes to turkeys and hams, it might be the year consumers get one of each.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

CENTRAL: The district experienced its first hard freeze as temperatures dipped into the mid-20s. Soil remained saturated. Milder daytime temperatures and some drying occurring, but fields were still too wet to work. The freeze set pastures back. The hard freeze was early for the district. Livestock received supplemental feed, and hay supplies were low. Some producers planted wheat despite muddy conditions. Warm-season plants were stung by the freeze. Nearly all counties reported surplus soil moisture levels. Overall rangeland, pasture and crop conditions were good in the vast majority of counties. Livestock conditions were good as well.

ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions were cold and dry with most areas seeing temperatures drop into the low 30s. Wheat producers started to replant acres flooded out. Other wheat acres emerged. Some older wheat reported in good condition was grazed. Cotton producers were back in fields for harvest with conditions ranging from poor to fair.

COASTAL BEND: The soil was saturated. Some field work was done, but conditions were too wet, and more rain added to the saturation in fields. Cotton was still standing in a few fields, and the stalk destruction date was extended again. Fall field work was way behind schedule due to field conditions. A freeze in northern parts of the district killed summer grasses. Winter grass was starting to grow from all the moisture and cooler conditions. There was a high level of concern regarding prussic acid issues in johnsongrass. Livestock were doing well. Livestock auctions were still experiencing above average runs.

EAST: Extremely wet conditions paired with the first hard freeze halted most pasture work throughout the district. Shelby, Jasper, Marion, Harrison and Anderson counties reported producers were delayed and have planted little to no winter pastures. Producers in Cherokee, Gregg and Henderson counties reported good winter pasture growth. Anderson, Cherokee, Harrison and Shelby county producers were forced to wait on weather conditions despite the need to harvest hay. Producers in Anderson, Cherokee and Shelby counties continued to search for hay to purchase. A small number of Cherokee County producers were able to bale dry hay. Marion County garden producers lost several plants to the hard freeze. Pasture and rangeland conditions were poor in Henderson County, and very poor in Shelby County, while all other counties reported fair conditions. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Livestock were in fair to good condition with supplemental feeding taking place. Gregg County cattle prices dipped across the board. Shelby County cattle numbers at sale were slightly lower. Shelby County reported calf prices continued a slow downward trend, while cull cow prices were very low. Wild pigs caused large amounts of damage in Anderson, Henderson, Wood and Upshur counties.  

SOUTH PLAINS: Subsoil and topsoil conditions remained adequate. Drier conditions allowed most farmers to resume the cotton harvest with grades and yields looking very good. Floyd County received a couple of inches of snow during the previous reporting period, which delayed farmers from getting cotton ready and stripped. Conditions were warm and dry, and producers were expected to catch up on harvesting. Pastures, rangeland and winter wheat improved with recent rains. Cattle continued to be in good condition.

PANHANDLE: Temperatures were near normal for most of the district. Soil moisture continued to be mostly adequate. Winter conditions with snow early in the reporting period set cotton harvest back a few days, but clear weather late should allow the cotton harvest to resume. Wheat fields looked great, and beef producers started turning cattle out to graze. Cattle looked good. Rangeland conditions looked good, with summer forages going dormant and cool-season forages starting to grow. Corn harvest resumed in some areas. More wheat was expected to be planted in the next few weeks if conditions allow. Lipscomb County received 7 inches of snow. Snow was expected to slow harvest down for a week or longer. Cattle on range and wheat pasture were given supplemental feed due to snow cover.

NORTH: No rain was reported, but wet and muddy conditions persisted. Waterlogged pastures were having difficulty drying due to limited sun and cold freezing temperatures. Wheat and oat fields looked better, but still showed signs of yellowing. Some producers were able to get a last hay cutting. Some fields, depending on the soil type, were dry enough to resume cotton harvest and wheat planting. Cooke County received several questions regarding prussic acid after the frost. Livestock looked good but were challenged to find a dry place to rest and decent grass to graze. Feral hogs were active in some counties.

FAR WEST: Precipitation received was less than half an inch. High temperatures reached the mid-80s with lows in the high 20s. A hard freeze terminated area cotton, weeds and insects. A lot of progress was finally made in the cotton harvest as fields dried out enough for producers. Yields were fair, but not as good as expected. Several fields were still much too wet to access. Wheat sowing resumed. Hay was finally cut and baled. Leaves were dropping from trees. Pecans were dropping. Producers were given recommendations to mow tall due to concerns including fire dangers. Rangeland and pasture conditions were very good.

WEST CENTRAL: The district received its first freeze with three nights of below freezing temperatures including reaching around 20 degrees one night. Wheat and oat pastures looked better as they continued to dry out with plenty of sunshine. However, in low-lying areas many fields held water, which was drowning out seedlings. There was a light run at the cattle sale due to poor access to pastures due to muddy conditions, but feeder prices were $3-$5 higher.

SOUTHEAST: Conditions were still wet. Livestock were in fair to good condition, but hay supplies were low. Remaining cotton was in very poor condition. Producers unable to plant earlier were exploring late planting options of cool-season forages adapted to wetter conditions. In Brazos County, freezing temperatures for consecutive nights burned Bermuda grass pastures. In Grimes County, continued rains kept the ground saturated. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from excellent to very poor with fair ratings being most common. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to surplus with surplus being most common.

SOUTHWEST: No rain, but the first freeze arrived. Low temperatures were in the upper 20s and lower 30s most of the reporting period with highs in the 40s and 50s. Livestock seemed to be faring well, and there was still an abundance of grazing. Soil moisture was good. Mild weather was expected with some chances for rain.

SOUTH: Northern, eastern and southern parts of the district reported cool to cold weather with adequate soil moisture levels. Western parts of the district reported mild temperatures and short to adequate soil moisture. Some light rainfall was received, though some producers reported more than 2 inches of precipitation. Several counties reported consecutive days of freezing temperatures. Peanut harvest continued. Wheat and oat planting continued. Hay cutting and baling also was completed prior to the cold temperatures and freeze. Pasture and rangeland conditions started to decline with the hard freeze damaging vegetation. Summer perennial grasses were going into dormancy. Forage quality was expected to decline. Wildfire danger was expected to increase. Body condition scores on cattle remained good. Supplemental feeding was expected to increase. Fall crops emerged. In Zavala County, spinach made good progress, and some early planted spinach at the baby leaf stage was expected to be harvested soon. Cabbage harvest was nearing. Wheat and oats also responded well to current growing conditions. Cattle were in good condition, and deer were moving. In Hidalgo County, harvest of sugarcane, citrus and vegetables continued.

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