Can Supply Chains Meet the Demand of Thanksgiving 2021?

Thanksgiving 2021


Thanksgiving is a holiday that is often defined by the meal. While there may be some variety in family traditions, generally, we expect to see things like turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and a few other tasty items lining the table.

This year, however, it’s possible that many thanksgiving gatherings will have to do without some of the more traditional fare this year. This is due to the food shortage that is currently unfolding in across the supply chain landscape.

As Thanksgiving 2021 is just right around the corner, let’s take a look at how supply chain issues are affecting shoppers and some of the workarounds that are being implemented to try to ease some of the strain.


Food Shortages are Becoming More Commonplace

Some items, such as turkeys, are in short supply this year. Or perhaps, more accurately: the exact type of items shoppers want may be harder to track down.

For example, Butterball CEO Jay Jandrain indicated in a recent interview that smaller (less than 16 pounds) turkeys could be difficult to find. Many people want smaller turkeys, as the number of guests at their thanksgiving gathering has decreased over the last few years as compared to in the past. Groups of five people require much less of a banquet of food than do groups of 20 people. 

These changes in consumer preference stem from a variety of factors that have grown over the years. We are just now really seeing this issue come to a head.

Fortunately, larger turkeys are still available and the supply of turkey overall looks to be sufficient to meet consumer demand. Jandrain offered a simple solution to the issue: more turkey on thanksgiving leads to more leftovers on the days following the holiday.


Labor Shortages Across the Logistics Industry are Presenting new Challenges

One of the much more pressing issues concerning supply chains is that of labor shortages. We see the labor crisis as a major headline every day now, and it may continue to be an issue for quite a while. Eventually, we will indeed see stabilization as we overcome these growing pains and the industry as a whole will be stronger for it.

For now, though, some companies continue to struggle in filling open positions. Worker shortages impact the flow of goods, leading to empty grocery store shelves.


Price Increases

Many materials within the food supply chain are increasing steadily in price. These price increases then, in turn, necessitate that prices on items in the store must also increase, passing the cost on to the consumers. For instance, corn and soybeans, which are used to feed turkeys, are more expensive than they used to be.

Therefore, the price of turkeys needs to be raised in order to keep up with the increased cost of feeding said turkeys.

Similar price issues are affecting nearly every other food item that can be found on the Thanksgiving table this year. So, what you paid in years prior for your holiday gathering may not be sufficient to foot the bill this time around.

Luckily, some companies have started finding a way around this issue. Through creative means, there is an ever-growing number of companies that are looking at ways to tailor some of their in-house operations to be more circular.

With this approach, they look for areas of their operation that could be more aligned with an eco-friendly approach, such as altering certain strategies to use sustainable items such as plastic pallets versus wood where applicable or even adopting a paperless approach to daily mundane tasks. In the long run, a more environmentally aware approach could potentially result in not only better supply chain sustainability but also large cost savings which then helps to offset a few price increases here and there.


Options for Overcoming Thanksgiving 2021 Food Shortages

Keeping the spirit of thankfulness at the front of our minds, it's important to look at this in a lens of preparation. While the logistics industry is indeed tackling this issue currently, you can still make this holiday feel as good as it has in years past with family, friends, and lots of food.

Here are a few recommendations for anyone wondering what they need to do in order to make sure Thanksgiving 2021 goes off without a hitch...


Start Shopping Now

For shoppers, depending on where in the country you live, you may actually be able to find most of what you need, even if it isn't the exact brand you are looking for or certain sizes are already sold out. Certain parts of the United States have been affected more than others, however, so if you live in a major city you may need to travel out just a bit further this year to less densely populated areas to do some last-minute shopping.


Consider Substitutions

While you will likely be able to find just about everything you need for a successful Thanksgiving meal this year, you may also need to consider substitutions. Start thinking about this now before you head out to the store and you may find yourself surprised by what you are able to come up with while others are still scouring empty shelves.


Support Local Restaurants

It’s easy to forget that many restaurants had to close for months early on in the pandemic. These establishments have faced a difficult road to recovery and would love to help make your Thanksgiving a success. Consider ordering some sides from a nearby diner or even heading out to have your whole Thanksgiving meal at your favorite local spot.



Thanksgiving 2021 might not look like it has in past years. Supply chain issues such as food shortages, worker shortages, and price increases may force you to finally try out a tofurkey or turducken paired with tart cherries instead of the standard turkey and cranberry sauce. But at most, these are minor inconveniences, which is something we can all be thankful for.