Clarke County in south central Iowa will become home next year to the world's largest turkey hatchery after an Alabama company completes the 86,000 square foot facility. Up to 50 million turkey eggs will be hatched at the facility annually when it's at full production within two or three years, says David Kenyon, president of Valley of the Moon Commercial Poults.
A ground-breaking ceremony was held April 12, 2011 just north of Osceola, the county seat of Clarke County and the town where the hatchery will be located. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey were on hand to turn the first shovels of dirt.
Work will begin on what will be 24 buildings that will house the hatcheries and some hens. About 50 workers will be hired during the run-up to what Kenyon says will be the plant's first sales by January 1, 2012.
Project is being built in Iowa because the feed is here
Most of the breeding stock will live on farms in Iowa and elsewhere, with the eggs trucked to Osceola to spend four to seven days incubating in 100-degree temperatures before hatching. The newly hatched turkeys will be sent to buildings in Storm Lake, West Liberty and elsewhere, where they will grow to proper weight to be made into Christmas and Thanksgiving and turkeys, as well as sandwich meat.
"We're here in Iowa because this is where the feed is," says Kenyon. "About 70% of the cost of a tom turkey is feed."
He says the environmental considerations are minimal because most of the waste produced by the hatchery facility will be eggshells which can be applied to farmland as a calcium material. Also, infertile eggs will be discarded. "The little turkeys won't be around long enough to generate much waste," says Kenyon.
No worry about manure and waste, because there won't be much
The average wage for workers at the plant will be at least $12 an hour. The Iowa Economic Development Board has agreed to provide financial incentive for Valley of the Moon. The firm will get nearly $2 million in state tax credits for building the $16.7 million project. The package also would include a $2 million tax abatement from Clarke County over five years. Also, Clarke County Development will provide a $64,000 forgivable loan, and the Clarke County Electric Co-op will contribute a $130,000 forgivable loan.
Valley of the Moon refers to Sonoma, Calif., home of Nicholas turkeys, the brand name owned by Valley of the Moon's parent, Aviagen of Huntsville, Ala. Iowa is the 10th largest turkey producing state, according to USDA. Turkey consumption while it has expanded beyond its traditional holiday emphasis, still trails beef, pork and chicken. "With rising beef prices, we have a real opportunity to expand turkey consumption," says Kenyon. "But we also have higher feed costs to deal with in the poultry and livestock feeding business today. Corn that costs $7 or $8 a bushel isn't a good deal for turkey producers.''