The turkey is the main attraction of Thanksgiving dinners, at least the ones that include meat. Many people prefer to cook a fresh turkey rather than a frozen one, but it looks like there will be a shortage of the popular Butterball fresh, large turkeys this year. 

This is no reason to panic, though, even though at the beginning of this Today segment, Matt Lauer says it “seems unthinkable” and tells viewers to “brace yourselves.” There is no turkey shortage. It’s simply that one company that sells turkeys doesn’t have as many fresh, over-16-pound turkeys as it usually has.


Butterball is investigating why 50 percent of its turkeys did not gain the weight required to be considered large. It’s the only company that is experiencing this problem, which leads me to wonder if they were trying a different method of getting the turkeys to gain weight. Or perhaps, they were trying to get them to gain weight under more natural, more humane conditions after instances of animal abuse on Butterball turkey farms were made public last year. That’s all just my speculation.

I have a feeling that many of my readers pass by the factory-farmed turkeys and buy free-range, humanely raised birds so the Butterball shortage won’t affect you.

If you do end up with a frozen turkey this year when you had hoped to get a fresh one, did you know that if you don’t have the time to defrost it, that's not a problem. You can cook a frozen turkey. The USDA says it’s perfectly safe if you do it in the oven.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Butterball's fresh, large turkey shortage is no reason to panic
There are plenty of frozen, large birds to go around, but the company hasn’t been able to fatten up half of the birds it raised to be sold fresh this season.