Demand in Maine for large turkeys is the same as in years past. One of the reasons is people looking to have leftovers in the freezer. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

While turkey farmers around the nation are bracing for a holiday with high demand for small turkeys and lower demand for large ones, Mainers are bucking the trend, according to farmers.

Pine Tree Poultry in New Sharon, for instance, is seeing a steady demand for large birds and relatively little for the smaller ones. According to Pauline Henderson, co-owner of Pine Tree Poultry, the sense is that people in Maine are going to have fewer people at the Thanksgiving table this year, but are not willing to give up on that large turkey.

Why go for the big bird without the big gathering? That’s simple: Mainers are thinking ahead.

Henderson said it looks like people in Maine are planning to enjoy their traditional feast and then find creative ways to use all those turkey leftovers in the months ahead.

At Greaney’s Turkey Farm in Mercer, Soctt Greany has sold his entire flock of 1,300 turkeys already this year. He said his customers who used to order one turkey are doubling down by ordering two large birds this year.

“I have people telling me they want a big turkey for their gathering and another one to put in the freezer for later,” Greaney said. “And they want the big birds I have walking around out there, the 25- or 30-pounders.”

With about a month and half to go before Thanksgiving, this bucks nationwide trends. The New York Times is reporting about 70 percent of Americans plan to downsize their holiday gathering this year due to the pandemic. That’s leaving turkey farmers outside Maine trying to figure out if they should prepare for an increased demand for smaller birds or gamble that people will still want a large turkey gracing their Thanksgiving table.

In Maine, however, demand in the state for large turkeys is on a par with past years with farms like Greany’s are already sold out of this year’s birds or down to their last ones.

Does this mean Mainers are ignoring United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention holiday guidelines of less travel and smaller gatherings to control the spread of COVID-19?

It’s too soon to tell.

Greaney said it could come down to two things — the desire to see family and a desire to stock up on food by putting up the turkey leftovers.

“I’ll say this, when you go to mom’s or grandma’s this year you probably aren’t going home with any of the turkey.” Greaney said. “You may leave with pie, but you’re not going to leave with turkey.”

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.