Monday, November 21, 2005

Retailers said they are seeing “brisk” turkey sales for Thanksgiving and are not being hurt by any consumer fears about avian influenza.

Giant Food LLC, the Landover grocery store chain, sold out of its pre-cooked Thanksgiving meals, which included a whole turkey, by about 1 p.m. yesterday before the store’s 5 p.m. deadline.

“Sales are brisk to say the least,” said spokesman Barry Scher, adding Giant’s 191 Mid-Atlantic stores still have frozen turkeys available. Mr. Scher would not give any sales information on frozen turkeys.

While the majority of Giant’s customers buy frozen turkeys, orders for pre-cooked turkey meals doubled to more than 10,000 this year, said Andrea Astrachan, Giant’s consumer adviser.

Safeway Inc.’s 100 Washington-area stores also had turkeys in stock yesterday, said spokesman Craig Muckle, who cited a turkey shortage during the holidays last year.

“Sales right now are on point with what we expected,” he said, declining to give any additional information.

Americans are expected to eat 46 million turkeys on Thursday, according to the National Turkey Federation, a Washington trade group.

“Turkey sales are doing very well,” spokeswoman Sherrie Rosenblatt said, adding the group had not received any reports of bird-flu fears from consumers. “The only people talking about it are the media,” she said.

Health officials worldwide for the past few months have repeatedly said the H5N1 bird-flu strain, which was found in Southeast Asia, could be the source of the next human pandemic if it mutates into a form that spreads easily among humans.

The U.S. Agriculture Department has said several times the U.S. poultry supply is safe to consume. The virus, which does not affect properly cooked poultry, has not been detected in the United States.

Market Poultry, a poultry stand at the District’s Eastern Market in Southeast, received about 1,200 orders for its free-range turkeys, at $1.85 a pound, by Sunday’s deadline, said owner Mel Inman.

“The cooler weather in the past week really helped sales,” he said. The stand, which sold about 1,100 turkeys for last year’s Thanksgiving, expects this year’s sales, for ordered and available turkeys, to rise 36 percent to 1,500.

Dutch County Farmers Market in Burtonsville had a steady stream of customers lining up Friday afternoon to place last-minute turkey orders before the Saturday deadline.

“We’re a little ahead this year,” said Sam Stoltzfus, general manager for Yoder’s Poultry at the market. The poultry stand took orders for fresh, smoked and fried turkeys, starting at $1.99 a pound.

Mr. Stoltzfus, who would not give any sales data, said the stand received one bird-flu-related call from a consumer.

Customers at the markets on Friday appeared more concerned about the size of turkey they would order than bird flu.

“That didn’t even cross my mind,” said Odenton, Md., resident April Raullerson at the Burtonsville market.

Mrs. Raullerson, who ordered a 14-to 16-pound turkey for her Thanksgiving feast, said she would be more concerned about bird flu if it turned up in America.

Capitol Hill resident Marian Wiseman also was not concerned about the virus.

“We’re all excited about having a house full of people,” she said, after ordering a 20-pound turkey at Mr. Inman’s stand.

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