Butterball Turkey CEO Has No Explanation for Shortage of Large Birds

Tuesday, 26 Nov 2013 07:02 PM

By David Ogul

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The CEO of Butterball, the North Carolina-based company that produces one out of four turkeys eaten during Thanksgiving, touched on a reported shortage of large birds for the holiday during a wide-ranging interview this week with The Associated Press.

Rod Brenneman told the AP this year marks the first time the company had trouble getting its large birds in the right shape for the holidays. Butterball earlier announced that it would be shipping out about half the number of fresh, never-frozen, large birds as it normally does. Brenneman says the company is investigating the cause, but for now there are no answers.

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But not everyone is actually convinced there is a shortage.

“Considering that the news only refers to Butterball’s fresh turkeys, there’s no need for hysteria just yet,” wrote Time magazine’s Laura Stampler. “Families can go with the freezer option — which, according to National Turkey Federation spokesman Keith Williams, accounts for a whopping 85 percent of the whole turkeys Americans eat for Thanksgiving, or just buy a different brand.

“And of course,” the commentary continues, “there’s always the overwhelming chance that this is a marketing ploy to build turkey hype.”

In the AP interview, Benneman also talked about how Butterball got its name (from the plump size and golden color of its birds), its production methods (birds are fattened and frozen 10 months out of the year), and his eating habits (between dishes such as turkey sausage for breakfast, turkey sandwiches for lunch or roast turkey and gravy for dinner, the CEO says he eats turkey at least once a day).

Brenneman also said its Turkey Talk Line at 1-800-BUTTERBALL will employ men for the first time this year. The line has been a lifesaver for many novice cooks, and Butterball says it fields more than 12,000 calls on a typical Thanksgiving.

Butterball produces about 41 million turkeys annually, covering about 16 percent of the entire U.S. market.

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