This Is Your Thanksgiving on Climate Change

How will your turkey-day staples fare in a warming world?

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Thanksgiving is supposed to be all about bounty, right? Cornucopias? Tables groaning with goodies?

Sure—for now. But (holiday buzzkill alert!) if the globe continues to warm, that Turkey Day spread could end up looking quite paltry. In honor of everyone’s favorite day of feasting, here’s a preview:

Turkey

The “turkey belt” of the US is in the Southeast, where states like Virginia, North Carolina, and Arkansas contribute the bulk of our national annual haul of over a quarter of a billion birds. But if you’re worried about keeping turkey on your Thanksgiving table into the future, you might turn your attention to the Midwest. After this summer’s record-breaking heat and drought in the Corn Belt, the grain supplies that plump the birds up for market dwindled, prices spiked, and as of fall turkeys are the most expensive per pound they’ve been in ten years.

That’s a problem for small turkey farmers like Anthony Miller, who runs Sunrise Farms in Stuarts Draft, Virginia. Miller’s customers faced a 60 percent increase in what they pay for a bird in the last couple years, which he blames directly on grain: “We have to pass the price along to our customers. We just hope people will be willing to pay for a good product.” The National Turkey Federation fears more frequent droughts, along with growing demand for corn ethanol, could make pricey birds the new normal.

If the sticker shock is too much, you can always take a cue from the Pilgrims and go hunt your own. But global warming could complicate that, too: The Audubon Society reports that rising temperatures have driven the natural range for wild turkeys 400 miles north in the last forty years. And drought puts grub for wild birds at risk, too. “Farmers can mitigate climate change with their wallets,” Audubon scientist Gary Langham says. “Turkeys don’t have wallets, so they don’t have any options.”

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The Climate Desk is a journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. The partners are The Atlantic, Center for Investigative Reporting, Grist, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Slate, and Wired.