Turkey Breast, Anyone? Downsized Thanksgiving Gatherings Expected This Year

A Vermont market said it is seeing a rise in interest in smaller turkeys or simply turkey breast because people are expecting fewer guests for in-person visits

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Many Thanksgiving get-togethers are expected to be downsized this year, due to safety concerns about the resurgence of COVID-19.

Some people shopping for groceries at Healthy Living in South Burlington, Vermont, said they are planning their Thanksgiving dinners with fewer guests in mind.

“There’s going to be three of us — for safety reasons,” shopper Jennifer Walker said, noting that guests from New Hampshire won’t be attending due to recently announced travel guidelines. “Last year, I think it was 10 of us.”

“Unfortunately, it is what it is,” said Mary Ann Gravel about her altered Thanksgiving celebration. “We’ll look forward to having a regular one the following year.”

While whole turkeys will be available as always, Healthy Living said, less travel and smaller gatherings during the pandemic mean the store is seeing many customers downsizing.

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“Our meat department will break down peoples’ turkeys into quarters, they’ll split birds and sell them out of the case as half birds,” explained Nina Lesser-Goldsmith of Healthy Living. “We’re seeing significantly more orders for just breasts this year.”

Coronavirus trends are worsening in the weeks before the holiday. On Thursday, Vermont set a single-day record for coronavirus infections with the 109 new cases reported by its Department of Health, marking the first time the small state saw more than 100 new cases in a day.

Amid surges around the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged people to skip nonessential travel this holiday season or to host much-smaller gatherings with members of few trusted households from nearby.

If you do have guests, the CDC recommendations encourage you to open windows to boost air circulation, keep everyone spread out, and have one person serve food—to cut down on sharing utensils.

As families scale down or skip traditional gatherings, many are mixing up the main meal and taking extra safety precautions.

Taking a hard look at how to adjust holiday get-togethers is exactly what state officials in Vermont want to see.

“I’m strongly urging people to lay low this season and forego nonessential travel,” Dr. Mark Levine, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, said late last week.

State health officials want anyone who is planning to travel to Vermont for Thanksgiving to read up on the state’s guidance around quarantines.

Earlier this week, Mike Pieciak, Vermont’s chief COVID-19 data modeler, pointed to our northern neighbors as a cautionary tale. He said provinces celebrating last month’s Canadian Thanksgiving saw dramatic spikes in COVID-19 cases shortly after all the dinner parties.

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“If you make the sacrifice in the short term, you’re certainly preserving a lot in that long term — in many, many, hopefully, holidays ahead,” Pieciak said.

Back at Healthy Living, where baker Hilary Payne-Vinick is gearing up for a crush of pie orders, she said she is not dwelling on disappointment over the friends and family she can’t see in-person this Thanksgiving.

Instead, she said she is staying grateful for her health and for the loved ones she will be with.

“Just focusing on those good things is important,” Payne-Vinick said.

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