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Small butchers gobble up bigger turkey sales in Collingwood

You can find turkey in Collingwood for your holiday meal, but it may cost you more this year

Collingwood charities are feeling the pressure of soaring prices for traditional feast fowl.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), 699,000 birds have been impacted by an Avian Flu outbreak in Ontario as of Dec. 9, which have trickled down to shortages of turkeys in grocery stores this holiday season.

And any birds you can find may be coming with a higher price.

While All-Saints Anglican Church in Collingwood did serve turkey at their monthly dinner this week with plans to also include it in their Christmas Day take-out plans, organizer Susan Scouten says including the festive bird in their menus this month did come with increased costs.

“Nine volunteers each cooked one turkey and donated it,” Scouten told CollingwoodToday. “They all were able to find a frozen turkey but most commented that turkeys were hard to find and small and the price had gone up significantly. We served 120 people and made sure everyone got some.”

For the Christmas Day dinner, the church purchased 10 frozen Butterball boneless turkey roasts.

“So far, we have been able to locate this type of turkey easily but the price has gone up significantly,” said Scouten.

Chris Dopp of The Mortgage Centre runs a Christmas Dinner Giveaway every year out of his office on First Street, giving away between 225 and 250 Christmas dinners to those in need on a first-come-first-served basis.

While he ordered his turkeys in advance this year back in September, he noted a major uptick in the cost this time around.

“It was about 30 per cent more than I paid last year,” said Dopp. “It’s brutal. I prep for it once a year and I’m waiting for the bill to come through.”

Trevor Mathers is head butcher at Blue Ridge Meats in Collingwood, which is selling turkeys this year. Mathers says the store orders their turkeys for the next year the week after Christmas, so this year’s shortage isn’t impacting them.

However, he says because of the types of birds they order, it’s unlikely they would have been impacted by the shortage even if they hadn’t ordered early.

“The difference between us and say, Sobeys or Loblaws is, they use commercial farms,” Mathers explained. “This really affects them.”

“My guy – he’s small. He only deals with artisan (businesses). So, as far as the Avian Flu, his flock is so small he can monitor it and avoid a widespread cull,” said Mathers. “It’s much different.”

The butcher notes he does deal with larger companies for some of his other purchasing, and has heard from them within the last week that they won’t be able to fulfill turkey orders this year.

Mathers says he has seen an influx of new business since the Avian Flu outbreak news started to spread last week, to the point where the shop’s large and extra-large birds have since sold out. However, he says he still has small and medium-sized turkeys available in limited supply.

“It’s helped my turkey sales,” he said.

There is a difference in price when buying local over big box birds, as Mathers says there is a cost associated with purchasing fresh over frozen. Blue Ridge Meats turkeys are also free-range and drug-free.

“Once you have an artisanal bird, you’re not going to go back to big-box,” he said.

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