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Iowa processes more turkeys than it grows

By Staff | Nov 21, 2008

VANDER SCHAAFMessenger staff writerNo matter where you dine, the traditional Thanksgiving meal is duplicated across America. Mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberries and turkey. It is the time of the year when Iowa’s 130 turkey producers’ labors are appreciated.According to Gretta Irwin, executive director for the Iowa Turkey Federation, in a year’s time Iowa will produce nine million birds, but will process 13 million birds by importing turkeys from surrounding states.Iowa ranks ninth in overall production, but fifth in processing. Irwin said Iowa is blessed to have not only an abundant supply of turkeys, but two really good processors – Sara Lee in Storm Lake and West Liberty Foods in West Liberty.While neither of these processors sell whole birds, Iowans enjoy their products when they have a turkey sandwich at Subway or at Jimmy Johns. Practically any turkey served at many American restaurants is made with turkey processed at one of these two Iowa plants. In addition turkey sausage and other products sold by companies such as Jimmy Dean have their start with turkey from Iowa.Iowa’s turkeys eat a lot of corn and soybeans. It takes one bushel of corn and a third bushel of soybeans to raise a turkey to market weight. That translates into 62,000 acres of corn and 69,000 acres of soybeans needed to support the Iowa turkey industry.With the high costs of manure, turkey litter has been gaining value. High in organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, John Lawrence at Iowa State University has put a value of $1 on the manure that one bird produces. A producer who raises 60,000 birds has that much value in manure produced annually.In 2008, Iowa welcomed nine new family farm producers adding one million birds. Irwin doesn’t expect this growth to continue with the increase in feed prices and the feeling of uncertainty.U.S. consumption is at 18 pound per person. It has remained fairly constant through the last decade. Exports are important to the turkey industry. Americans tend to favor the white meat. Mexico and Asian markets prefer dark meat.Turkey is the perfect protein fitting today’s lifestyles and nutrition requirements. A three-ounce serving has one gram of fat, but no saturated fat.A turkey deli sandwich is easy to grab when running between school, family and work events.The convenience of turkey products has moved turkey from a meal served at Thanksgiving alone to a regular menu item.Contact Renae Vander Schaaf at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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