GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — Good news for Minnesotans prepping the Thanksgiving feast: The state is the leading producer of turkeys for 2022!
At just around 37.5 million turkeys, Minnesota ranked No. 1 among six states. North Carolina came in second with 28 million, followed by Arkansas at 27 million, Indiana at 20.5 million, Missouri at 17.5 million and Virginia at 14.6 million.
The top-ranking states' total turkey production accounts for nearly 70% of turkeys nationwide, according to a report from the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board and USDA.
Tuesday leaders of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association joined Gov. Tim Walz and state lawmakers at the Capitol to celebrate the state's turkey industry. The star attraction was a tom turkey named "Tom" who attracted the full attention of the capitol press corps, and ended up in countless selfies.
"In Minnesota we have over 650 turkey farms throughout the state. And we’re also home to three processing companies, Jennie O The Turkey Store, Turkey Valley Farms out of Marshall, Minnesota and Northern Pride in Thief River Falls," Jes Westbrock, the president of the turkey growers organization.
The turkey industry in Minnesota employs 26,000 people and generates nearly $1 billion in economic activity each year, according to the Minn. Dept. of Agriculture.
"Being number one in turkey production is so important to our state, and all the things it brings, not just the farmers, but think of the big companies we have," Minn. Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen remarked.
It's also a resilient industry that survived another bout of high-path avian flu, thanks in part to the lessons learned in the 2015 outbreak.
"It's stressful. It's heartbreaking," said Westbrock. "But it's also a very close knit and strong industry. We have a lot of support, so for a bad situation it could've been much worse for us."
Westbrock who is part of the family that owns Melrose Feed Mill, a fourth-generation turkey farming operation in Stearns County.
In Minnesota governors don't "pardon" turkeys as the president does. The event is dubbed as the "presentation of the state turkey" in advance press releases.
But Peyton Linn, part of the Melrose Feed Mill family, said that "Tom" will spend Thanksgiving and the foreseeable future on a hobby farm hanging out with chickens. The other 18-week-old Tom turkeys at Melrose are headed to market Wednesday and will end up on someone's dinner table.
The annual turkey event also includes a donation to charity. The Minnesota Turkey Grower's Association presented a ceremonial check to Hunger Solutions for $10,000 worth of turkey products being donated to that statewide organization.
"Even in the years when avian flu was dramatic problem for the farmers, they never missed a donation to the poor," Colleen Moriarty of Hunger Solutions remarked.
"That shows the integrity of the organization."
According to the NASS report, the total national turkey output this year is down two percent from 2021's numbers. Minnesota's 2022 production is down seven percent from last year's numbers, due mostly to the avian flu impacts.
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