A Zoom Thanksgiving Leaves Big Turkey in a Tailspin
Inside Butterball’s plight to save the holiday — and its business
Rebecca Welch remembers all too well the Thanksgiving Day she pulled the turkey out of the refrigerator to prep it for the oven and, with a crowd of in-laws standing around watching, realized it was still frozen solid. “I tried to remember everything I knew about thawing, but I was panicking,” she says. Finally, Welch did what some 100,000 other people do every year around Thanksgiving: She called Butterball’s Turkey Talk Line for help. The person at the other end talked her through the warm-water fast-thaw hack, and Thanksgiving was saved.
Many years later, Welch remains a little embarrassed about the experience. After all, as senior brand manager for Butterball, the company that produces Butterball turkeys, she might be expected to be above that sort of turkey trouble. But during those high-pressure holiday moments, even the pros can lose their cool.
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Folks might need more than a little help this year, and with questions that are more existential than turkey thawing. Questions like: Will there be anything like a real Thanksgiving this November, in the middle of a pandemic? If so, what will celebrations look like? Outdoor feasts or broken into mini-dinners? If gatherings are dramatically smaller — or on Zoom — will anyone even bother with a giant turkey?
No one knows, of course. We could have a devastating second wave of Covid-19 infections that all but shuts down much of the country, and Thanksgiving along with it. That’s why about half of Americans think holiday plans will be canceled this year, according to a study by data intelligence firm Morning Consult. On the other hand, there are signs that Thanksgiving will be the line that Americans draw in the sand when it comes to all the things we’ve given up over the past several months. “People may be thinking, ‘This is the year that everything went crazy, but at least we can look forward to Thanksgiving,’” says Victoria Sakal, managing…