Turkey farm faring with a pandemic Thanksgiving


WATERMAN, Ill. (CBS) — Easter and Halloween looked different this year, and now with Thanksgiving coming, health experts are warning that massive adjustments need to be made this holiday to save lives.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has even said you should cancel your Turkey Day celebration.

So how does that affect the main attraction? CBS 2’s Lauren Victory checked out turkey trends at a farm out west.

When the weather turns, there is a lot to chirp about at Howard Kauffman, or Ho-Ka Turkey Farms.

“We’re transitioning from being turkey farmers to turkey processors,” said Kauffman Farms President Robert Kauffman.

The DeKalb County operation swells to 80 people. A team transports birds that grew in barns to their last stop ahead of your Thanksgiving dinner table.

It’s Kauffman’s favorite feast, and a time to reflect.

“I’m just glad we’re here,” he said.

He is also grateful to be in an industry that has remained strong during the pandemic. Between April and September, national turkey sales were up nearly 20% according to Chicago-based research firm IRI Worldwide.

“You can simply come to our farm,” Kauffman said.

Inside the turkey farm’s store, the phones are always busy. But the conversations are a bit different this year, as the clerks say more customers are shopping early to avoid crowds.

Some already came and went, celebrating the holiday safely outdoors when we had warmer weather.

Ed and Dee Ercegovich are part of another turkey trend. They normally buy a 20- to 25-pounder, but only 12 pounds will go in their oven this Thanksgiving and only Ed and Dee will be at the table.

“We’d usually be with family,” said Ed Ercegovich.

“Anywhere from 15 to 20 people,” said Dee Ercegovich.

And in what could be a consequence of more gatherings in smaller numbers, Kauffman said, “We are really moving a lot of product.”

Kauffman Farm roasts – a lighter bundle of meat – are almost sold out. And that’s not the only shortage.

“The masks, the shields – actually getting a hold of all that stuff is difficult,” Kauffman said.

Unlike the product, the producers will survive. There have been turkeys on the farm since 1933, so decades of practice before a pandemic ruffled some feathers.

The National Turkey Federation is promoting a Zoomsgiving – a virtual celebration. Their website has recipes for first-time turkey cookers, ideas for leftovers, and even games to play over video chat.

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Lauren Victory