Explore How Minnesota Became the Country’s Top Turkey-Producing State
Not only is Minnesota the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it’s also the Land of 45 Million Turkeys. Each year, more than 450 family farmers stay hard at work producing and processing most of the nation’s Thanksgiving main dish. For many producers, turkey is more than just an export, though. The industry has a rich history, with many Minnesotan turkey farms dating back generations.
Minnesota has been the nation’s top turkey producer since 1959. Generations of knowledgeable family farmers, investments in disease prevention, and state-of-the-art facilities have all played a part in the impressive production of Minnesotan turkeys. It’s a responsibility that large- and small-scale farmers alike take seriously, especially as we near Thanksgiving.
Minnesota’s First Domesticated Turkeys
Minnesotan families began raising small flocks of domesticated turkeys in the early 1900s. Eggs were initially imported from other states, but as soon as commercial incubators were introduced in the 1930s, the Minnesota turkey market began to take off. Family farmers could suddenly hatch their own baby turkeys, or poults, to raise, sell, or eat.
The Minnesota climate wasn’t always kind to yields, as turkeys require different temperatures as they grow. Poults, which don’t have many feathers, start in brooder houses for warmth. As they grow, they’re moved to outdoor pens and open ranges, like this 11-acre Fillmore County farm, with plenty of open space for animals to roam. With little protection from the elements, Minnesota blizzards seriously diminished early turkey yields, and the Farm Owners Mutual Insurance Company even introduced insurance policies for turkey flocks.
Minnesota’s Turkey Industry Grows
It wasn’t until the late 1950s that growers began raising turkeys indoors. Large metal buildings provided shelter for the birds and prevented certain wild diseases. Temperature-controlled rooms could finally cater to birds of all ages, and automatic feed and water stations were popularized. Almost overnight, Minnesota’s turkey industry exploded.
With streamlined production processes in place, more and more farmers began raising turkeys. Family businesses were grown and passed down, and the modern Thanksgiving celebration meant there was never a shortage of demand. Minnesotan turkeys even found their way into the White House. In 1949, President Harry S. Truman was the first U.S. president to receive a Minnesota-grown Thanksgiving turkey. The Presidential turkey presentation, and pardon, became tradition. Over the years, 13 different Minnesota turkey industry representatives have had the honor of presenting the presidential turkey.
Minnesota’s Turkey Industry Today
Today, the Minnesota turkey industry provides thousands of jobs and invests millions of dollars into Minnesota-grown corn and soybeans for turkey feed. More than 45 million birds are raised by 450 growers on 600 farms, and the industry generates more than $807 million annually. If your clients enjoy farm-to-table freshness and want a piece of the action, the top turkey-producing counties include Kandiyohi, Ottertail, Rice, and Becker, where average home prices are $168,223, $258,893, $241,193, and $288,396, respectively.
Odds are, you’ll be cutting into a Minnesota turkey this Thanksgiving. Before digging in, say thanks to the generations of local family farms that make this holiday possible.
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