B.C. turkey farmers struggling to get birds to Kamloops, Okanagan for Christmas | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. turkey farmers struggling to get birds to Kamloops, Okanagan for Christmas

Image Credit: PEXELS

Christmas dinner may look a little different this year for families in Kamloops and the Okanagan if turkeys are unable to trot through the hindered supply lines.

After last month's flooding events damaged Highway 1, Highway 3 and Highway 5, just one route has re-opened and for essential traffic only. That puts a strain on supply chains between the Interior and the Fraser Valley, where an abundance of turkeys are raised.

“People are panicking, people want to buy turkeys,” said Taryn Skalbania, who raises turkeys on her farm in Peachland.

In her 12 years raising turkeys, she's noticed the overall demand in the Okanagan going down, as it seems to her like people are eating less meat and protein.

Leading up to Thanksgiving, the demand for turkeys this year was average, Skalbania said. 

But now that December has arrived and some highways remain months away from reopening, she has already sold out of all her birds, and they haven’t even been slaughtered yet.

READ MORE: Here’s why we still have food, supplies in Kamloops, Okanagan after highways closed

Turkeys have also become a hot commodity in Kamloops.

“Everybody’s looking for turkeys and chickens and we got nothin’,” Josee Lang, owner and operator of Copper Mountain Farms & Processing, said.

Lang said people have been calling everyday to ask for turkeys. Most years her business has extra, but she already sold out as well.

However, Copper Mountain normally raises more turkeys most years, but a contract with a restaurant was lost due to COVID, so Lang thought less would be needed in 2021.

“Had we known there was a flood coming we would have grown more,” she said.

Despite the severity of the flooding, there are enough turkeys in the province to supply the population, according to Michel Benoit, general manager of B.C. Turkey Farms. 

The supply of turkeys in B.C. is expected to remain healthy as only two of 64 turkey farms were impacted by the flooding.

But he says the challenge will be getting them to market.

“The product is here, but with that backlog on Highway 3 – re-opening and closing again – it’s making it challenging to get it out to the Interior,” Benoit said.

“If you’ve had a chance to go to some of the grocery stores you may have noticed a bit of a depleted poultry section."

READ MORE: Empty shelves, higher prices expected as B.C. floods disrupt supply chains

B.C. Turkey Farms has never experienced a supply problem like this, he said.

However Benoit is optimistic that families in the Interior will be able to enjoy turkey for Christmas. Even if birds from the Lower Mainland are unable to get delivered to the Okanagan or Kamloops, he believes turkeys farms from Alberta will be able to fill any shortages.

There are still more than three weeks until Christmas, and “in poultry that’s a lot of time.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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