Why are turkey prices going up and is there a shortage?

Curious to know why are turkey prices going up? We’ve got the answers, along with some alternative Christmas dinner choices

Cooked turkey on dining table surrounded by glassware and christmas lights
(Image credit: Getty Images)

News of more expensive turkeys as we head into the Christmas season will be worrying news for families struggling with rising costs, but why are turkey prices going up?

Rising food prices and high energy bills are currently at the front of most families’ minds, and many will be concerned about how much it costs to cook a Christmas dinner. As a result, most households will be keen to know how to save money for Christmas, as well as how to save money on food.

Added to these concerns is the fact that turkey prices have gone up this year and some families might struggle to even get hold of one due to potential shortages. 

Chef Dennis Littley, who runs Ask Chef Dennis, told us: “I think it's natural to be concerned over turkey prices. People are looking for more cost-effective solutions when shopping. We’ve become accustomed to not questioning prices worldwide, but when it’s hitting the average person's pocket it becomes a serious worry.” 

Why are turkey prices going up? 

Turkey prices have increased by up to a third this year, primarily as a result of supply concerns due to avian flu.

Data compiled by Assosia for The Grocer shows that frozen turkeys have risen by up to 32% compared to last year at eight of the main UK supermarkets. 

Assosia looked at 66 frozen turkeys sold in Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl and found that 50 were at least 10% more expensive than they were a year ago. The biggest price rise was for a Waitrose Essential frozen medium turkey crown, which was 31.6% more expensive than the year before at £25.

According to chef Dennis Littley, on average, turkey prices have increased by roughly 17.5% from £38 last year to £46 today. 

However, bird flu isn’t the sole reason for price hikes. Farmer Rob Morton from Morton’s Family Farm says: “We all know about inflation and this has been affecting farmers since the start of the year. Our chick costs have increased, labour is in short supply and demand is at a premium. Feed has gone up by 38% which puts almost £5 on the cost of producing a free range turkey. Then there’s the ongoing energy costs of processing and running coldstores. 

“Farmers have also incurred extra costs this year due to the heightened threat of bird flu, more staff are needed to allow one person to manage a single site and reduce the risk of spreading avian flu and extra time for more biosecurity measures.”

Below is a table of how much the big supermarkets are currently charging for a turkey:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Frozen turkey (medium, whole bird)Fresh turkey (medium, whole bird)
Asda£17.50 (£4.49/kg)£42.75 (£9/kg)
Sainsbury’s£20 (£4.40/kg)not yet available
Tesco£18 (£4.62/kg)£29.95 (£5/kg)
Morrisons£21.99 £23.45 (£4.99/kg)
Waitrose£25 £56-£84 (£14/kg)
Aldi£15.99 (£2.96/kg)£22.25 (£4.95/kg)
Lidl£15.99 (£2.96/kg)not yet available

Prices correct at the time of writing. We’ve used like for like where possible.

Whether fresh turkey prices will increase further before Christmas remains to be seen. CEO and founder of grocery retail app Ubamarket, Will Broome, told us: “It is more than likely that food prices will continue to increase, as we continue to see the ongoing energy crisis, supply chain issues due to the war in Ukraine, and increased import costs as a result of Brexit affect the grocery retail sector.”

However, farmer Rob Morton believes turkey prices will not rise further this year. He says: “We generally fix our prices in September when we know what the increases in costs have been based on last year. We are not looking to capitalise on the back of a shortage but just keep our prices in line with inflation, as will many other farmers.”

Will there be a turkey shortage at Christmas? 

Reports show that around half of the free-range turkeys produced for Christmas in the UK have been culled or have died as a result of bird flu. Chief executive of the British Poultry Council, Richard Griffiths , told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee: “This year is the worst bird flu outbreak that we have ever seen.”

Free-range turkeys are more likely to get avian flu as they are free to roam areas visited by wild birds which carry the virus. As a result, it’s likely there will be a shortage of free-range poultry this festive season, with some supermarkets and butchers likely to get limited stock. 

The British Poultry Council’s Richard Griffiths has also expressed concern about the free-range production as a whole for next Christmas and subsequent ones. He told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that we could see a shift away from free-range production and more towards indoor production.

However, it should still be possible for families to buy turkeys to put on this year’s Christmas table. 

“There will be free-range birds available at your usual outlets but maybe not in the same volume as last Christmas,” Rob Morton from Morton’s Family Farm told us. “Once they have been sold then customers will have to seek out an alternative barn reared turkey. I don’t expect a shortage for frozen turkeys in the same way. We place our birds in June for Christmas so no one can suddenly produce more birds - what we have now is what will be available for 2022.”

Chef Dennis Littley adds: “I think we’ll be ok. You often see some scaremongering going on but reports suggest there’ll be no shortage. Nevertheless, I expect consumers to switch birds for this year’s Christmas meals.”

Anyone who wants to be sure of securing a free-range turkey for Christmas should put in their order now, but do remember that any terms and conditions might state that orders are subject to availability. 

Christmas turkey alternatives  

If you’d prefer not to have a turkey this year, there are plenty of Christmas turkey alternatives to consider, such as: 

  • Shoulder of lamb
  • Pork loin
  • Meat loaf
  • Nut loaf
  • Marmalade roasted duck
  • Salmon en croute
  • Beef wellington
  • Goats cheese and cranberry parcels.
Rachel Wait
Personal finance expert

Mum of two, Rachel is a freelance personal finance journalist who has been writing about everything from mortgages to car insurance for over a decade. Having previously worked at Shares Magazine, where she specialised in small-cap stocks, Rachel developed a passion for consumer finance and saving money when she moved to lovemoney.com. She later spent more than 8 years as an editor at price comparison site MoneySuperMarket, often acting as spokesperson. Rachel went freelance in 2020, just as the pandemic hit, and has since written for numerous websites and national newspapers, including The Mail on Sunday, The Observer, The Sun and Forbes. She is passionate about helping families become more confident with their finances, giving them the tools they need to take control of their money and make savings. In her spare time, Rachel is a keen traveller and baker.