Turkey is a food often eaten during special holidays.
If you have a love for turkey and intend to raise your own, then you may find that buying turkeys is quite expensive.
It may make you wonder why turkeys are so expensive, especially compared to chickens.
Why Are Turkeys So Expensive? (10 Reasons)
The startup cost of raising turkeys is around $80.
After vet bills, housing, and other related costs, however, the price of raising turkeys becomes even more expensive.
Let’s look at these reasons in more detail.
1. Expensive Feed
Turkeys eat a lot of food.
Hens tend to consume around 102 pounds of feed until they’re fully grown at around 28 weeks.
Male turkeys eat around 200 pounds of feed by the time they’re fully grown.
That’s a large amount of feed, especially compared to chickens.
Since turkeys are larger, however, and produce more meat, they need a lot more feed to get to the right weight.
The quantity of food certainly makes feeding turkeys more expensive.
However, there are other problems with feed making it more expensive than ever to feed turkeys.
Feed usually consists of some or all of the following ingredients:
- Whole kernel corn
- Sunflower seeds
The problem with a lot of those ingredients is that they’re experiencing a shortage.
Whether it’s due to drought, cold temperatures, or wildfires, a lot of the agricultural industry is having a difficult time.
Turkeys aren’t the only creatures that like to eat those ingredients either.
They’re competing with humans who like to eat sunflower seeds snacks or use wheat to make bread.
Since there’s a lot of competition for those food sources, ranchers need to pay more for it to feed their turkeys.
With the shortages affecting the amount of supply available and demand being high, the price of feed is also high.
Raising turkeys and turkey meat becomes more expensive as a result.
Ranchers are looking to offset the cost of feeding.
Turkeys and turkey meat are expensive because feeding them is expensive.
2. Expensive Fertilizer
Another reason turkeys are expensive is due to the cost of fertilizer.
Clearly, it costs a lot to feed a turkey.
It’s worth mentioning one of the biggest factors behind high feed prices.
The price of fertilizer has skyrocketed recently.
You can trace its roots back to a shortage caused by problems in Europe and China.
Both continents have been dealing with staffing problems, COVID-19, and other issues that are impacting the production of ammonia.
Fertilizer manufacturers need ammonia to make ammonia-based fertilizers.
While there are other types of fertilizers available, most farmers prefer to use ammonia-based products.
China, for example, is facing a shortage because they get their ammonia from coal mines.
Due to the pandemic, they had to shut those mines down.
This meant there was a long period in which no ammonia was getting produced.
Meanwhile, farmers were still working their fields with the fertilizer that was on hand.
Since China didn’t open up its coal mines until later, it created a bottleneck.
They can’t produce enough ammonia to satisfy demand.
Normally, Europe might be able to help pick up some of the slack, but they’ve been having problems as well.
Since there isn’t enough fertilizer to go around, farmers are paying top dollar for it.
This impacts the price of their food.
Corn, wheat, and other agricultural products are more expensive to buy.
That means turkey feed is more expensive, too.
It costs more to feed turkeys.
As such, the price of raising turkeys and buying turkey meat is more expensive.
3. Turkey Breed
Another factor that influences the price of raising turkey and turkey meat is the type of turkey.
There are two main breeds of turkey used to produce turkey meat.
There’s the broad-breasted turkey and the heritage breed turkey.
The main difference between the two is the growth rate.
It’s also easier to breed heritage breed turkeys than broad-breasted turkeys.
If you’re looking to raise a line of turkeys, then you’ll want to opt for heritage-breed turkeys.
While they do take longer to grow, you’re also able to breed them together and continue the line.
Broad-breasted turkeys are best for one-off meals.
This impacts the price of raising turkeys and turkey meat because both breeds come at vastly different prices.
Broad-breasted turkeys are cheaper.
It tends to cost around $8 for a baby broad-breasted turkey.
Heritage-breed turkeys are more expensive.
A baby tends to cost around $13.
Since broad-breasted turkeys grow faster than heritage-breed turkeys, you also have to feed them less.
This makes raising that particular breed of turkey a lot cheaper.
Any meat that comes from a broad-breasted turkey is also going to be a bit cheaper.
Heritage-breed turkeys take longer to grow.
That means you’re going to be feeding them more.
As such, raising them is more expensive.
Turkey meat that comes from a heritage-breed turkey is also going to be more expensive since the rancher needs to offset their costs.
Raising turkeys or just buying turkey meat is expensive when you choose the more expensive turkey breed.
4. Order Minimums
Ranchers aren’t usually able to buy just one turkey baby.
Most sellers have an order minimum.
Otherwise, they’re unable to make a profit off the sale.
The type of breed that the rancher is buying determines the order minimum.
Ranchers who buy broad-breasted turkeys usually have an order minimum of around eight turkey poults.
This brings their initial order to around $65.
Ranchers who buy heritage-breed turkeys usually have an order minimum of around 20 turkey poults.
That means their initial order is going to be around $277.
Clearly, raising heritage-breed turkeys is going to be far more expensive initially than raising broad-breasted turkeys.
Part of that is because heritage-breed turkey breeders know that most people buying heritage-breed turkeys are doing so to start their line.
Unless something happens that kills all their turkeys, they’re probably not going to be back to buy more.
As such, the breeder has to make as much money off the sale as possible.
Broad-breasted turkey breeds, on the other hand, know that people are likely going to be back to buy more.
Broad-breasted turkeys, although breedable, tend to be more one-off purchases.
People grow them, then eat them.
They then come back to the breeder to get more.
As such, the breeder can sell their poults at cheaper prices.
This makes raising turkeys quite expensive.
Depending on which breed the rancher is choosing, they could have quite an expensive starting price.
The rancher then needs to make up for that investment by selling their turkey meat at higher prices.
Turkeys are expensive because ranchers usually have to pay an order minimum which can drive up the price of the turkey.
5. Growth Can Take Some Time
Turkeys are also expensive because they take some time to grow.
Broad-breasted turkeys tend to take anywhere from 14 to 22 weeks to fully grow and mature.
Heritage-breed turkeys tend to take anywhere from 25 to 30 weeks to fully grow and mature.
This means that heritage-breed turkeys are going to require more feed to reach their full weight.
It also means that ranchers have to wait a bit longer to start breeding their heritage-breed turkeys.
Broad-breasted turkeys take far less time to grow.
They don’t require quite as much feed to get them to full weight.
As such, they’re cheaper to raise.
Since broad-breasted turkeys are usually raised specifically for slaughter, the rancher doesn’t have to worry about feed costs after they reach the ideal weight.
Ranchers raising heritage-breed turkeys will need to keep a few to continue the line.
While others are likely going to go straight to slaughter, the rancher will need to continue to feed those they’ve chosen as their breeders.
They’ll need to keep a close eye on the hen’s weight to ensure she’s healthy enough to lay eggs.
That also means that heritage-breed turkeys tend to cost more due to other costs associated with raising turkeys.
They’ll need more water and more visits from the vet, and their housing will need to continue to receive maintenance and cleaning.
Because they grow longer, it costs more to get them to an ideal weight.
Since the rancher has to pay more to grow heritage-breed turkeys, they sell their meat at higher prices.
Turkeys are expensive because some breeds take longer than others to fully grow.
6. Housing Costs
Another factor that makes raising turkeys and turkey meat expensive is housing costs.
Raising turkeys is similar to raising chickens in that you need to start with a coop.
When turkeys are younger, they like to sleep in a secure coop.
You can’t just buy a chicken coop and use it for your turkeys, however.
Turkeys are far larger than chickens and aren’t quite as agile.
As such, most turkey ranchers end up building their own coops to house their turkeys.
Since turkey coops are larger than chicken coops, they’re also more expensive to build.
They simply require more materials and time to build.
If the rancher hires someone to build the coop for them, then they’re going to spend a good amount of money for that person’s services.
There are a few factors that make a turkey coop different from a chicken coop.
The first is that the roosting bar is lower to the ground and further away from the wall.
This makes it easier for the turkeys to get on the bar.
The door is also usually larger and wider.
Turkeys become quite girthy as they age, so they’ll need a larger door to access the coop.
They also need a ramp to get inside since they don’t jump well.
Broad-breasted turkeys like coops more than heritage-breed turkeys.
Heritage-breed turkeys will start in a coop, then they’ll prefer to sleep outdoors.
They may even start to sleep on top of the coop since they prefer to sleep in high areas to keep an eye on their surroundings.
One solution is to build an open-air coop for heritage-breed turkeys.
Another is to put some sort of ramp that gives the heritage-breed turkeys the opportunity to sleep on the top of the coop if they so wish.
Because it can cost a lot of money to make a custom coop for turkeys, ranchers will take on more costs.
This makes raising turkeys expensive.
It also makes turkey meat expensive because ranchers need to offset the cost of building and maintaining the coop.
7. Water Costs
Turkeys also need a lot of water to survive.
Like any other animal, if they don’t have access to clean water, then they can become ill.
Birds, especially, get sick easily.
As soon as they drink something with bacteria or a virus in it, there’s a good chance that they’re not going to survive the infection.
Because of that, ranchers spend a lot of money to ensure the water they’re giving to their turkeys is clean.
This becomes a problem, however, in areas that are experiencing a drought.
It becomes more expensive for the rancher to get access to clean water because there’s a lot of demand for that water.
If they live in an area where there are a lot of farmers, then they’re directly competing with farmers for access to clean water.
Farmers need it to nourish their crops.
Otherwise, their crops will die.
Since there’s a lot of competition for clean water, the price of it increases.
Turkeys tend to drink the most water within the first four hours of the day after they wake.
Five adult turkeys can drink a gallon of water a day.
If you have many turkeys, then you can expect you’re going to need to give them quite a few gallons of water each day.
Even worse, the water needs to change each day.
This reduces the chances of a disease spreading through the flock.
Since ranchers have to spend a lot of money on water for their turkeys, it makes raising turkeys expensive.
Turkey meat also becomes expensive due to the costs that the rancher takes on.
Turkey is expensive because of the cost of water.
8. Vet Bills
Like other farm animals, turkeys need regular check-ups from the vet.
Due to concerns like avian flu, turkeys tend to get checked often, especially if the rancher is planning to slaughter them and sell them to the general public.
If a bird becomes ill with the avian flu, then it can make anyone who eats the meat ill, too.
To avoid that, ranchers spend a good amount of money on vet bills.
Whether it’s getting a check-up, a vaccine, or assisting with breeding the turkeys, vets will make a good amount of money from turkey ranchers.
Since the rancher has to spend a lot of money on vets, they sell their turkey meat at higher prices.
9. Protein Supplements
Turkeys can’t just eat feed or forage and grow to their full potential.
They need protein supplements.
Many ranchers buy and feed protein supplements to their turkeys to make them bigger.
The protein puts more meat on the turkey.
However, protein supplements aren’t always cheap.
They need to be safe for human consumption.
Because ranchers spend money on expensive protein supplements, they have to make up for that cost through expensive meat prices.
Turkey is expensive when ranchers use protein supplements.
10. Diaper Costs For Pet Turkeys
A final reason turkeys are expensive is that ranchers choose to keep them as pets.
While some turkeys go to the slaughterhouse, others become family pets.
Turkeys are unable to stay in the house, however, since they don’t have any control over their bladders.
To make up for that, families will put diapers on their turkeys and allow them to wander around in the house.
As anyone who has children knows, diapers can become very expensive.
Since ranchers need to ensure their turkeys stay healthy, they have to change their diapers often.
Some ranchers will even design custom diapers for their turkeys.
This is an additional cost that makes raising turkeys expensive.
Whether someone is raising turkeys as pets or for meat, doing so comes with quite a few costs.
Vet bills, feed costs, and housing costs are some of the expenses that make turkeys and turkey meat expensive.