Avian flu and inflation put festive tables on both sides of the Atlantic on a diet

Galloping inflation and avian flu have caused the prices of foie gras and turkey to soar, forcing manufacturers and consumers to adapt on both sides of the Atlantic for the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dates.

Since the beginning of the last episode of avian flu, more than 20 million birds have been slaughtered in France, including nearly four million ducks intended for the production of foie gras.

Another six million ducks were not put into production because the breeding buildings had to be emptied for a long time, or for lack of ducklings – the breeding ducks having also been decimated.

In the United States, approximately 50 million poultry had to be killed, including more than 8 million turkeys, according to a calculation made on the basis of data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In France, “we will have to share” the available quantities of foie gras, warns the French association bringing together breeders and processors of foie gras (Cifog), which advises to make purchases as soon as possible.

The contraction in supply is pushing up prices, which were already high due to rising production costs, from cereals fed to animals to packaging, transport and energy bills.

Foie gras sold in supermarkets jumped 17% compared to the same period last year, according to IRI, while turkey costs 21% more on average in the United States, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, American professional organization.

So as not to frighten the consumer too much, French manufacturers offer foie gras in small formats, “bites” based on the king product of the end-of-year celebrations.

“Foie gras will be more of an aperitif than a main course”, summarizes the president of Cifog, Eric Dumas, himself a breeder in the south-west of France, the main cradle of foie gras.

The chain of frozen food stores Picard has given up on foie gras stuffing in some of its festive products, replacing it with mushroom stuffing.

– Fried chicken instead of turkey –

In New York, Sandra White fell back on fried chicken for Thanksgiving, celebrated Thursday, abandoning the sacrosanct turkey, “too expensive” according to her.

She instructed her family members, invited for the occasion, to bring the rest. “The prices are really atrocious,” insists this resident of East Harlem.

Desserts for sale at a Walmart store in Rosemead, California on November 22, 2022 (AFP – Frederic J. BROWN)

Yeisha Swan, a crossover mother outside a supermarket on 110th Street, was able to rely on a diner to buy the turkey and she saved on the sides, often considered almost as important as the poultry itself.

“I couldn’t buy my” cooked ham, one of the staples of Thanksgiving, she says, and the 40-year-old had to settle for collard greens (collard greens, another traditional food) canned rather than fresh, always to limit the final bill.

In the classic Thanksgiving assortment, all ingredients are up, sometimes even more so than the turkey like stuffing mix (+69%), with only the iconic cranberries seeing a drop in price.

“I really had to cut costs and I’m not partying this year,” said Jose Rodriguez, a chef who usually had an open table that day and will be content, this time, to feed his wife and two. dogs.

However, despite their price, the turkeys find takers and the Wendel’s farm, near Buffalo (northwestern New York State), which was not affected by avian flu, had sold its 1,100 birds several days before the due date.

To cope with the acceleration in the price of raw materials, Wendel’s had nevertheless raised its prices by around 22%, explains Cami Wendel, manager of the store.

The American retail giant Walmart has decided to go against this trend and is offering a basket of products, including a turkey, at the same price as last year. Its low price policy has already enabled it to gain market share in food since inflation soared.

Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.

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