Iowa's Turkey Industry Celebrates a Great Year

Iowan's have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, including a healthy turkey industry in the state.

Iowa's turkeys are raised by farm families across Iowa. Specifically in the north- west, central and southeast part of Iowa. Many of these farmers are second and third generation turkey growers. There are also many new, young farmers entering the business.

Iowa's processors are requiring more turkeys to meet the demands of consumers. Also, new growers are building new turkey farms. This has allowed young families to return or remain in their communities. Existing turkey growers are also expanding their farms to raise more turkeys in Iowa.

In 2007 it is estimated that Iowa's turkey growers will raise over 9.5 million turkeys. This ranks Iowa 9th in the U.S. for turkey production. Each turkey raised and processed in Iowa, according to Iowa State University economists, adds $16 to Iowa's economy. That equates to $152 million Iowa's turkey growers add to the local communities in Iowa.

Iowa ranks 9th in turkey production

The turkey industry is currently enjoying exceptional prices. Economists predict that this year's prices may reach the 1985 record highs. USDA reports that strong domestic demand is one reason for the increased prices. Since turkey is nutrient-rich, low in calories and has no saturated fat, consumers are integrating more turkey products in their meals. This is increasing demand for turkey.

One of the most frequent questions asked by people this year was on how turkeys are raised, specifically the public wants to know about the use of antibiotics, hormones and steroids. All turkeys are both hormone and steroid free, says Gretta Irwin of the Iowa Turkey Federation. "No hormones have been approved by the government for use in turkeys," she notes.

USDA guidelines will not allow this claim on labels unless the statement "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones" be on the label. Genetic improvements, better-feed formulation and modern management practices are responsible for the larger turkeys produced today, she explains.

Public wants to know what turkeys eat

FDA approved antibiotics are used at times to help suppress microorganisms, prevent disease and ensure that consumers receive a healthy product. A withdrawal period is required after the time the antibiotic is administered and before the turkey can be processed. The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA monitors the administration of antibiotics and randomly tests flocks of turkeys for residues. Therefore, consumers can be assured that turkeys do not contain antibiotic residues when they go to market.

Nathan Hill, a turkey producer from Ellsworth, Iowa, is president of the Iowa Turkey Federation. He was recently asked if he uses antibiotics in producing turkeys in his operation. "The perception that I, a turkey grower, would over-use antibiotics is not true," he says. "We do many things in the management of the turkeys on our farm so that we do not have to use antibiotics. In addition to what we do on the farm, we are required to routinely test the turkeys to ensure the turkey products consumers enjoy are safe."

TAGS: USDA
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