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Check Call: Getting turkey with it

The new Freight Alley | Port glow ups

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Turkey Take


Turkey Day is coming this week! Put those birds in the fridge now to defrost them in time to have a fantastic Thanksgiving turkey. In honor of the turkeys, I thought we’d take a look this week at what goes into getting the sheer volumes of turkeys to market at the same time. 

Every year the U.S. consumes about 45 million turkeys — or 675 million pounds of turkey — during Thanksgiving. That’s one-fifth of all U.S. turkeys produced annually. Minnesota and North Carolina are the MVPs of turkey production. Minnesota produces more than 40 million turkeys a year, and North Carolina comes in with more than 30 million turkeys. Honorable mentions are Indiana, Arkansas, Missouri and Virginia. 

Here’s where it gets a little wild. On average, a turkey after processing weighs about 15 pounds and if we anticipate 45 million turkeys being consumed, that’s 675 million pounds of turkey that have to be transported to the stores before Thanksgiving. Here’s the catch: Fresh turkeys need to arrive at the stores within seven to 10 days of being processed and they need to be purchased and cooked within 10 to 14 days of arriving at the stores before they spoil. 

Typically you can load a trailer with 45,000 pounds of freight. So if you have 675 million pounds of turkey, that’s 15,000 trucks full of just turkey to make it to the grocery store, not including any side dishes and all the ingredients to make the pies. That has been estimated to take more than 65,000 tractor-trailers to deliver. 

All that being said, if you have a shipper that is shipping some of the 675 million pounds of turkey, make sure you check those little details like whether it is fresh or frozen turkey and the exact temperature of the reefer to ensure quality. I think it’s safe to say that most of these shipments would be a rush or expedited shipment. With such a small time frame to keep the product fresh, you have to work seamlessly with all parties involved. 

Quick Hits

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

It’s a great big beautiful tomorrow down in Texas, specifically Austin and San Antonio. New factories, distribution centers and warehouses are flocking to the I-35 corridor, newly dubbed the “Texas Innovation Corridor.” There is access to major highways, two international airports, regional airports and a pretty well-developed transportation infrastructure, not to mention a growing workforce greater than 1.5 million people.

Some have already dubbed it the new “Freight Alley.” Traditionally that name has been used for freight traffic moving through Tennessee (also the home of FreightWaves), South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. In true Texas fashion though, everything is bigger in Texas, which explains why it can earn a name that would otherwise belong to a region of five states with one stretch of highway. 

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

The ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Savannah, Georgia, have gotten all the hype and attention lately. Everyone seems to have forgotten about the Port of Virginia. The port has set itself up for the glow up of a century. It has approved a construction project that will increase its on-dock rail capacity to 1.1 million containers a year, increase its lift capacity to 610,000 annually, deepen and widen the ship channel, and expand container capacity. 

The construction for the new railroad track will begin in February 2022 and hopefully be fully operational by the end of 2023. The harbor deepening and widening to 55 feet currently underway will be completed late 2024. I don’t know who hurt the Port of Virginia, but it’s bouncing back stronger than a ’90s trend. 

Market Check


If the I-35 corridor is going to be the next Freight Alley, let’s see what is happening in San Antonio. The outbound tender rejection rates are at 6.5%. While any time rejection rates are between 3%-7%, the spot market rates are typically pretty close to contracted rates. Seeing as how the national outbound rejection rates are around 20%, San Antonio is looking like a pretty strong market. 

San Antonio’s outbound tender volumes dropped pretty substantially from the end of October but have rebounded from the slow start at the beginning of the month. As we head into peak retail season, I would expect those volumes to increase as all those distribution centers are put to work as everyone starts ordering their holiday presents online. 

Holiday History Lesson


Elementary school history books tell us the first Thanksgiving took place in 1621, but some historians claim it was celebrated more than 50 years earlier in Florida, where on Sept. 8, 1565, Spaniards shared a meal with a local tribe of Native Americans after a religious service. 

In 1789, the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking President George Washington to have a national day of thanksgiving, thus leading to Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789, as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” for the first time. 

There wasn’t a consistent day of celebration until the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation asked God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” This proclamation made Thanksgiving a national holiday on the last Thursday in November. 

In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the third week of November to try and boost retail sales during the Great Depression. Two years later he signed a bill officially reverting the holiday back to the fourth Thursday in November. 

Happy Thanksgiving and may peak season treat everyone well!

The more you know

Mary O'Connell

Former pricing analyst, supply chain planner, and broker/dispatcher turned creator of the newsletter and podcast Check Call. Which gives insights into the world around 3PLs and Freight brokers. She will talk your ear off about anything and everything if you let her. Expertise in operations, LTL pricing and procurement, flatbed operations, dry van, tracking and tracing, reality tv shows and how to turn a stranger into your new best friend.