Joe Biden forgives dear Turkey as inflation feasts on Americans
President Joe Biden lost many silly customs and traditions and paraphernalia that came with his election to the presidency in his first year in office: no parade or inaugural ball, no Easter egg roll on the South Lawn , no nervous reporters at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner or handing out candy to the children of staff members and friends on Halloween.
So Biden will likely be grateful for a rare opportunity to preside over the lightest of presidential ceremonies on Friday: the official forgiveness of a Thanksgiving turkey named Peanut Butter.
But even this ridiculous tradition – historically a chance for even the most besieged presidents to loosen their ties and play puns on cranberry sauce before the holidays – is swallowed up by the pandemic and the economic chaos it has caused. .
The price of turkey has risen 68% in the past two years, according to a Wells Fargo turkey producer price analysis released earlier this month. While consumer prices haven’t risen much, larger frozen birds, those who have suffered the fate that peanut butter will avoid by presidential decree, are easier to keep in stock than smaller fresh birds, which means they are less prone to price fluctuation – the Farm Bureau found that the average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for a family of 10 increased 14% from last year, the price of the turkey alone increasing by 24%.
Veronica Nigh, Senior Farm Bureau Economist, highlighted the increase in “dramatic disruptions to the US economy and supply chains over the past 20 months”, along with inflationary pressure and strong global demand for meat, because more and more people stayed at home and cooked rather than ate. outside.
What followed is a bird war – sorry, words– between government economists and agricultural experts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday released a defensive statement regarding the retail price of Thanksgiving dinner staples, noting that despite some price increases – the department has announced a more modest 5% increase since 2020 – the administration “was taking all possible measures to mitigate this.
“The good news is that the best turkey farmers in the country are convinced that anyone who wants a bird for their Thanksgiving dinner will be able to get one, and a big one will only cost a dollar more than last year,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a longtime ally of Biden. “This is why the president has focused so much on creating millions of jobs, raising wages and securing tax cuts for working families.”
The price and availability of turkeys, like almost every other item on grocery store shelves, has been marred by the “shortage of everything” caused by supply chain bottlenecks and continued producer uncertainty. affected by the pandemic, said Professor Jayson Lusk, head of the agricultural economics department at Purdue University. But the turkey economy can be more complicated than just a matter of supply and demand.
A major factor, Lusk said, began even before Biden was elected president.
Soaring soybean and corn prices – caused by a voracious Chinese market, droughts in the Western Hemisphere, and a derecho that caused $ 11 billion in damage to parts of the Midwest – all contributed to the rise in prices. feed prices, and turkeys should eat. Likewise, skyrocketing costs of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers have also increased the cost of raising a turkey from egg to slaughter.
“All of these things have made food prices more expensive,” Lusk said, “and feed is a major cost in turkey production.”
But the labor shortage, another major factor in the Thanksgiving food price hike, is not so easily sidestepped by force majeure.
“If you look at the wages in the meat processing sector, they are up almost 20% from before the pandemic,” Lusk said. “They are struggling to find enough workers and they have to pay workers more to show up. So that’s an additional cost in the system that has to go somewhere, right? And rising meat prices are one of them. “
Oddly enough, Friday’s turkey forgiveness ceremony – officially known as the “national Thanksgiving turkey presentation,” in capital letters and all – can trace its origins to another post-crisis supply crisis in the States. United, when President Harry Truman became the public enemy of the turkey industry. No. 1.
“In 1947, there were still food shortages as a result of WWII in Europe and the United States, so the government decided to implement an initiative called ‘Poultry Free Thursday’, which they did not want that Americans consume poultry. Thursdays, ”said Lina Mann, historian with the White House Historical Association. “It caused a huge uproar in the turkey community. “
The poultry farmers, who pointed out that Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years all fall on a Thursday, were as crazy as sissies and started protesting by sending live chickens to the White House as part of a campaign titled “Chickens for Harry”.
“Crates of chickens would show up at the White House for Harry Truman,” Mann said.
As a gesture of goodwill towards the turkey farmers, the White House coordinated with the poultry industrial complex to present the president with a turkey (without protest) that year. The ceremony has now become an annual tradition to strengthen the Turkish National Federation, although the first official “forgiveness” did not take place until 1989.
But Biden’s path to easing consumer price pressures won’t be as simple as accepting a free turkey, Lusk said, or passing the Build Back Better Act, as the White House has said. often stated when asked about other kitchen table effects of inflationary pressures and the supply chain crisis.
“Input prices are very high right now, and it’s impacting the cost of production for next year’s corn and soybean production, and that might not go away,” Lusk said. “There is enormous uncertainty as to when these price increases will dissipate. “
The White House downplayed the importance of Friday’s ceremony, brushing aside questions about why the president is pardoning turkeys before pardoning a human being, with the deputy press secretary telling reporters on Tuesday pardons are “a light tradition”. (An administration spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for information about the history and future of turkeys, possibly because the Daily Beast’s series of questions about the naming process was too much cheerful.)
At least two turkeys, of course, will not fall victim to increased consumer demand for their meat. Peanut Butter and Jelly – they can be distinguished by the smooth acacia of peanut butter and Jelly’s slightly longer snood – will retire at Purdue University’s Animal Science Research and Education Center, in three hours north of the farm where they were raised.
“The turkeys will be housed in a facility where they will have the choice of being able to spend part of their time outdoors (weather permitting, of course),” said Dr Marisa Erasmus, assistant professor of animal science at Purdue. “We have experts in poultry nutrition, management, health, behavior and well-being, so with daily monitoring and a diet adapted to their age and nutritional needs, Peanut Butter and Jelly will receive excellent care. to ensure an optimal quality of life. “
Unless, of course, the country’s turkey supply drops again.
“To my knowledge, the pardoned turkeys weren’t eaten afterwards,” Mann said. “But you might have to check it out. “