Turkey still the king in Minnesota; state leads nation as producer
ST. PAUL -- A 21-pound hen stood quietly Tuesday, representing 44.5 million of her fellow turkeys who are in high demand this Thanksgiving season. Next to the hen, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and industry leaders talked about importance of turkeys to Minne...
ST. PAUL -- A 21-pound hen stood quietly Tuesday, representing 44.5 million of her fellow turkeys who are in high demand this Thanksgiving season.
Next to the hen, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and industry leaders talked about importance of turkeys to Minnesota.
"If you eat turkey at Thanksgiving ... there is a good chance you eat a Minnesota turkey," said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.
The state continues its position as the country's top turkey producer. Minnesota's 250 turkey farmers -- which raise 44.5 million turkeys a year -- are doing well because new products keep appearing, Olson said. For instance, Olson said, a product becoming popular this year is an oven-ready turkey that does not need thawing.
"It simplifies the process."
Half of turkey used to be eaten at the holidays, but Olson said that now is closer to 30 percent as more and more products are made from turkey.
For Wayne Mickelson and his family, that is good news.
"This has been a good year for Minnesota's turkey industry," Mickelson said.
The rural Frazee farmer, president of the state's turkey producers, announced that his group will donate 26,000 pounds of turkey to the needy in several communities, including Willmar, Thief River Falls, Frazee and Perham.
Since turkey farmers began their donations in 2001, they have donated enough turkey to feed 136,000 people.
For a change, the turkey on display in the governor's office behaved herself Tuesday. In the past, turkeys have "thrashed and beaten" him, he said.
The unnamed turkey came from a University of Minnesota turkey research facility in Rosemount. It stood as if at attention while Pawlenty and others talked about the industry.
The Minnesota turkey industry:
- Provides more than $500 million in annual economic activity and employs 26,000 people.
- Gives corn and soybean farmers a place to sell crops -- $74 million of corn and $90 million of soybean meal a year.
- Is led by Kandiyohi County, with 6.5 million turkeys raised annually. Mickelson's county, Otter Tail, is No. 7 with 2.86 million birds.
- Has processing plans owned by Jennie-O Turkey Store, Northern Pride, Turkey Valley Farms and North Star Foods.