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Even without big birds, there’s plenty of turkey for Thanksgiving

Butterball glazed turkey.
AP
Butterball glazed turkey.

Gobble away — there's still enough turkey to go around.

Butterball acknowledged a shortage of large fresh turkeys 16 pounds and bigger after New England grocery chain Big Y announced that the turkey giant slashed its order of large-sized fresh turkeys in half.

Although Big Y placed its Thanksgiving turkey order in June as usual, it said in a statement last week that its buyers "were notified by Butterball that their orders along with those of all other retailers across the country had been cut by 50 percent."

In response, Butterball issued a statement saying it "experienced a decline in weight gains on some of our farms causing a limited availability of large, fresh turkeys."

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Keith Williams, spokesman at the National Turkey Federation, said he hasn't heard that from any other brands.

Big Y said it's ordering more big, fresh turkeys from other suppliers to make up for the Butterball shortage.

Butterball said cooks looking for a big bird could get a frozen one instead, and just plan ahead to budget for the three to five days' thawing time needed.

Or, they could just get a smaller bird and save a few bucks to boot. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated last year that Americans throw out 35 percent of the turkey they buy, to the tune of $282 million a year.

As it is, this shortage probably won't affect most families this Thanksgiving. Although Butterball produces about one-fifth of the turkey America eats, only about 20 percent of turkeys consumed over the winter holidays are fresh birds, Williams said. The other 80 percent we buy are frozen, and Butterball said supplies of frozen birds of all sizes, as well as smaller-sized fresh turkeys, are still available.

"If you want a turkey, you can find a turkey," Williams said.

--By NBC News