Your Thanksgiving table may look a little different this year. According to Butterball spokesperson Christa Leupen, the pandemic has made it harder for meat suppliers to meet demands, and smaller frozen turkeys are harder to come by. Leupen told TODAY Food, "Frozen turkeys are the bulk of what is sold at Thanksgiving and are produced all year long. Challenges like labor and transportation that have persisted throughout the pandemic have made it difficult to maintain a normal production flow. The result? Smaller frozen turkeys could be harder to find in stores this November.” 

Other reports, including one from the New York Post, suggest fresh turkeys are also at a premium, and last month, the New York Times reported that even if you can get your hands on your ideal bird, it’ll cost you quite a bit more than previous years. 

While many folks may think Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without the turkey, this already oddball year is an excellent opportunity to start a new tradition: Don’t serve a bird, save a bird. The Gentle Barn animal sanctuary is encouraging folks to become a Turkey Guardian this season. A one-time donation of $35 — less than you may pay for a Thanksgiving turkey — will help provide care for rescued turkeys and other farm animal friends at all three Gentle Barn locations, including the sanctuary about 40 miles outside of Nashville in Christiana, Tennessee.

You can even pick the turkey you’d like to sponsor! Turkeys at the Tennessee location include Luke Skywalker and Heather, two 6-year-old birds who love to eat their snacks right out of their human friends’ hands. Skywalker, The Gentle Barn says, is also quite the dancer, always proudly displaying his feathers for the female birds Heather and Penelope. You can become a Turkey Guardian of one turkey or pay $150 to guard the whole flock. Each contribution comes with a certificate and photo of your new feathered friend(s). Donations of $1,000 or more will earn you a special guardian status that includes a Zoom discussion with Gentle Barn founders Ellie Laks and Jay Weiner.

Good turkey is expensive and hard to find this year. Why not try something new? Besides, everyone knows the best part of Thanksgiving is the sides: mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with those little marshmallows on top; you won’t even notice the turkey’s not there.