It’s Turkey Time!

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Okay, so there may be a bunch of readers out there thinking ‘Huh? It’s not even close to Thanksgiving yet.’ Well, for us folks up here in the Great White North, aka Canada, Thanksgiving will be gloriously celebrated on October 12 with family, fond memories, and in my case, a turkey dinner with all the fixings. And my oh my how I do love my turkey! But seeing as this is a blog about supply chain, and not about my preferred poultry, I thought I’d take a look at what goes into getting those millions of pounds of turkey from the farm to the table. Unless you happen to be raising your own turkeys, or have an appropriate license and skill to hunt a wild one, chances are you’re picking up the centerpiece of your holiday meal from a store. Seems like the easiest choice, right? Maybe for you, but certainly not for those involved in the turkey supply chain. Coordinating the slaughter (sorry to my vegetarian friends or anyone who’s a little squeamish about these things), shipment and sale of enough birds to feed the majority of the population of a country is no easy feat. One little hiccup would be all it takes to throw Thanksgiving into chaos – and no one wants to see that. Let’s take a look at what needs to be the first stop on this delicious gravy train – an accurate demand forecast. Producers need to ensure they have enough birds to meet demand. That means incubating eggs and allowing for maturity time. Unlike other manufacturing industries, it’s a lot harder to make up for a miscalculation in raw material needs when you’re dealing with living, breathing animals that only reproduce at a specified rate. While there is the possibility of sourcing from a secondary supplier, there’s no guarantee they’ll have enough stock available. It isn’t just a low forecast that can cause issues. Over forecasting the number of turkeys needed can result in waste, and thus unnecessary costs, when it comes to birds shipped fresh and not frozen. An overstock of frozen turkeys is less of an issue. They can be held in inventory until the second biggest holiday for these big birds – Christmas, which is only a couple of months away. Fresh birds must be sold before a certain date to avoid spoilage. Oh the joys of working with perishable items in your supply chain! Speaking of spoilage, that brings us to stop number two – shipping. Special consideration needs to be given to the shipment of live birds on the way to slaughter, not to mention once they’ve been processed they’ll need to be transported in temperature-controlled conditions. So what does that mean for the supply chain? Ensuring appropriate transportation methods are available and accessible to carry the required load. Appropriate contingency plans will also need to be in place in case of unexpected delays or issues. The next stop is retailers – where most people will go to actually pick up all the makings of their Thanksgiving meal. Assuming production demands have been accurately met, transportation has been properly scheduled, and stores have done their part in making space for this delicious new inventory, picking up Tom the turkey should be a breeze. Of course if one little thing has gone awry anywhere down the supply chain line, it’s every person for themselves as we all fight to get our hands on that lone turkey at the supermarket! The message here is that when it comes to the turkey supply chain, or with any supply chain for that matter, collaboration, visibility and risk management all play critical roles in making sure the turkey ends up on the table and Thanksgiving goes off without a hitch. At least when it comes to the food. What happens between you and your in-laws, well that’s another issue entirely.

So to all my friends south of the border, I say jump on the Canadian bandwagon. Forget Columbus Day this year and come celebrate Thanksgiving with us instead! Because hey, who doesn’t want another reason to eat turkey?

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