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Paynesville Press - November 27, 2002

Turkey industry helps Minnesota's economy

By Michael Jacobson

Mention "turkey" to any American, and the word conjures up images of Thanksgiving, a mouth-watering roasted bird on the holiday table and warm, fuzzy thoughts about family get-togethers. Click here for a bounty o'turkey tidbits.

The turkey industry in Minnesota, however, is much more than just a holiday venture. This agriculture industry packs serious economic punch.

Turkey farmers in Minnesota raise approximately 44 million birds yearly and currently rank first in the nation in turkey production. Kandiyohi County leads the state, producing nearly half the turkeys grown in the state (20.2 million birds in 1999). Kandiyohi County also ranks fourth nationally in turkey production.

Stearns County ranks third in the state in turkey production (raising 3.9 million birds in 1999).

"Minnesota is home to nearly 600 turkey farms in nearly all areas of the state, with the highest concentration of the industry situated in Kandiyohi, Morrison, and Stearns counties," said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA).

The turkey industry cites its access to a readily available supply of grain for turkey feed, inexpensive transportation costs, and the drive of both large- and small-scale producers as keys to the industry's success. "Currently, over 90 percent of Minnesota's turkey products processed in Minnesota are exported out of state - and 15 percent go directly to international markets," said Dave Burkel Jr., a fourth-generation turkey farmer from Frazee who is the 2002 MTGA president.

Minnesota counts among its ranks the nation's largest turkey processing company, Jennie-O Turkey Store, based in Willmar, which processes 1.258 billion pounds of turkeys each year. Jennie-O Turkey Store also raises birds throughout the state, including on farms in the Paynesville area.

Turkey processing and production accounts for earned incomes of approximately $212 million with spin-off industries (feed, transportation, veterinarians, business and ag services, etc.) earning $374 million.

"Not bad for an industry that traces its humble beginnings all the way back to the first Thanksgiving dinner in the 17th Century," said Burkel.

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