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Serving: IN

Talking turkey as Thanksgiving approaches

Tom J. Bechman package of ground turkey
TURKEY ALL YEAR: Many people purchase ground turkey as a substitute for ground beef because it is believed to be lower in fat content.
Indiana is a leading turkey-producing state, with much of the meat used for ground products.

Odds are you don’t raise turkeys, but you and your family still contribute to making Indiana fourth nationally in number of turkeys produced because you eat turkey. And although traditionally turkey is thought of most as a meat choice around Thanksgiving, today it’s consumed in many ways all year.

Jordan Seger, deputy director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, notes that many of the turkeys raised in Indiana are used for deli meat, with breasts marketed as turkey breast and other cuts retailed as ground turkey. Nationwide, the amount of ground turkey marketed has seen a significant rise in the past decade.

Only a small percentage of turkeys raised in Indiana wind up on Thanksgiving tables. A large percentage of Indiana turkeys are raised on contract in southwestern Indiana, particularly in Daviess and Dubois counties. Statistics provided by the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s annual summer survey in 2021 indicate there may be upward of 1.5 million turkeys in each of those counties at any one time.

Turkey production in terms of birds raised has declined nationally from just over 250 million head in 2012 to around 215 million head currently, according to NASS, with a sharper decline over the past 18 months. Indiana numbers have also dipped, and are below 20 million. Seger notes that part of the drop is likely COVID-19 related and may be a temporary glitch. Indiana exports turkey, with a large amount going to Mexico, and some going to China over the past 12 months.

Bruce Kettler, director of ISDA, has visited the largest turkey hatchery in the world because it’s located near Terre Haute. Operated by Select Genetics, part of Aviagen Turkeys, it had the capacity to produce 41 million turkeys per year when it opened in 2018, with room to expand to 60 million.

“It’s neat to think that many of the turkeys raised and processed in Indiana start and complete their whole life cycle within the state,” Seger adds.

turkey production across the U.S. infographic

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