Myth-Busting: Turkey Style

For immediate release

Contact: Lara Durben, Phone: 763/682-2171 | Mobile: 612/554-0920,



Turkeys are pumped full of added hormones and steroids so they fatten up quickly.


All turkeys in the U.S. are raised without any added hormones and steroids. There are no hormones or steroids approved by the FDA for use in poultry and haven’t been since the 1950s. Turkeys are fed a healthy diet of whole and pelleted grains as well as vitamins. Feed for turkeys comes from Minnesota’s soybean and corn farmers. Turkeys always have access to fresh, clean water.



Turkeys are cooped up in barns, so close together they can’t move.


Turkeys are raised in barns that provide a safe, comfortable home with plenty of space to move around.  Barns – which are specially designed just for turkeys – keep predators away, help farmers control germs and diseases from getting to the birds, and allow maximum comfort – turkeys stay cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and dry during inclement weather. Turkeys are not raised in cages.



The use of antibiotics in turkey production doesn’t have any oversight and turkey farmers use a litany of antibiotics regardless of whether their birds are sick or healthy.


Antibiotic use in turkeys is overseen by veterinarians and follows strict guidelines.  Approved antibiotics in poultry production can be used to 1) individually treat sick birds, 2) control disease within an entire flock that has sick birds in it; and 3) to prevent disease completely. Depending on the situation, a farmer may choose to treat only the birds that are sick with antibiotics, but it is also true that a farmer may want to administer antibiotics to an entire flock after some sick birds in the flock are diagnosed. As is the case with humans and germs, sick birds can spread illness to healthy birds pretty quickly so sometimes the best way to ensure a flock stays as healthy as possible is to treat all the birds with medication.

Some poultry companies have announced they are ending the use of antibiotics for the overall prevention of disease; however, they will continue to use antibiotics as needed to treat sick birds and control disease within an entire flock because it’s the right thing to do for the birds. Turkey farmers feel it is the humane thing to do to treat sick birds with antibiotics, if that is the treatment prescribed by a veterinarian. We don’t know any farmer who wants to see his or her birds suffer from illness.

If antibiotics are prescribed to a flock, there is a mandatory withdrawal period and random testing by USDA before the birds can be processed, insuring that there are absolutely no antibiotic residues in the birds when they go to market.



There are very few family farmers who raise turkeys.


Most turkey farms are operated by family farmers. Minnesota has the most independent turkey farmers of any U.S. state. and many of our 450 turkey farmers are 3rd, 4th and even 5th generation farm families.



Eating turkey makes you very tired.


No, it’s not the turkey’s fault! Recent studies have shown that it is more likely a large, carbohydrate-rich meal – like the kind we eat at Thanksgiving – rather than just the turkey that causes sleepiness.  A carb-heavy meal like this releases tryptophans in the brain, causing drowsiness.



I have to get up at 4 a.m. to roast the turkey for Thanksgiving.


Not these days! A whole turkey (unstuffed) that’s 8-12 pounds will take 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours to roast (a little longer if you stuff the turkey), so if you are planning a noon feast, you do not have to get up at 4 a.m.  And remember – the best measurement of doneness is with a meat thermometer that reaches 180 degrees in the thigh and 165 degrees in the breast.



Turkey is only eaten during the holidays in November and December.


More and more Americans realize turkey isn’t just for the holidays. Although 50 percent of all turkey consumed in 1970 was during the holidays, today that number is around 31 percent. Incidentally, 95% of Americans will eat turkey at Thanksgiving this year.



The white meat of a turkey is better for you than dark meat.


No matter what your preference, turkey is a lean source of protein with plenty of nutrient advantages. While a 3 oz. portion of turkey breast has 20 fewer calories and 3 more grams of protein than a similar-sized portion of turkey thigh, the dark meat actually has a higher mineral count and more iron, zinc and selenium.


Sources: Minnesota Turkey Research & Promotion Council, National Turkey Federation,,, Food

Minnesota Turkey Debuts New Website Just in Time for Thanksgiving!


Contact:  Lara Durben, MTGA Communications Director, 763/682-2171, mobile 612/554-0920 or

Buffalo, Minn. (November 10, 2014) – The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA) has announced the launch of its new website,

The website features a plethora of information and videos on Minnesota’s 450 turkey farmers, which rank #1 for turkey production in the U.S. Sections of the website also highlight facts and myths about the turkey, a bird native to North America and the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal. Minnesota’s turkey farmers raise 46 million turkeys annually.

In addition, the website features tools for students and teachers; links for recipes and safe food handling in the kitchen; and a section that highlights MTGA and its sister organization, the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council.

“This website revamp has been several months in the making and we really focused on showing people the farmers behind the turkeys,” said Steve Olson, MTGA Executive Director. “We have several new videos that highlight farmers this month, as they talk about what they love about raising turkeys and what they’d like consumers to know about turkey farming.

This section – titled “Real Farmers | Real Farms” aims to bring turkey farmers closer to people who may not know much about what it’s like to live on a farm or raise animals for food production. The videos can found here: and are easily share-able on social media platforms.

MTGA is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The organization, founded in 1939, has the most independent turkey farmers of any state in the U.S. and is also home to three successful turkey processing companies – Jennie-O Turkey Store in Willmar, Northern Pride Cooperative in Thief River Falls, and Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall.  These companies collectively employ nearly 8,000 people and have created over 2,000 turkey products for the consumer and foodservice markets that are shipped across the country and the world.

U.S. turkey production stands at 246 million – which means Minnesota farmers raise nearly 20% of all U.S. turkeys. Approximately 95% of all Americans will eat turkey at Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation.


About MTGA

The MTGA, located in Buffalo, MN, is a nonprofit association dedicated to fostering a successful Minnesota turkey industry and its ability to make positive contributions to consumers, the economy, the environment and its members. Minnesota is currently ranked #1 for turkey production in the U.S. with its 450 turkey farmers raising an estimated 46 million turkeys annually. For further information, visit or find us on Facebook (, Twitter (@MinnesotaTurkey), Pinterest ( and YouTube (


Media Coverage of #Popcorn and #Caramel

Did you catch this terrific video piece from CNN about Minnesota’s Presidential turkeys?  Check it out!

And here’s a video piece from Politico:

Other media links:

Wall Street Journal          For Thanksgiving turkeys, presidential pardon takes practice


Time Magazine                 10 things you probably didn’t know about presidential turkey pardons                       President Obama pardons Thanksgiving turkeys,,20761491,00.html                      President Obama crowns victor of turkey ‘Hunger Games’

Photo gallery:


Washington Post             Popcorn the turkey wins presidential pardon, but Caramel also spared


New York Times               History of the Presidential Turkey Pardon


New York Daily News      Sibling of turkeys getting presidential pardon has a different fate, as food for the    needy at The Salvation Army


Canoe.TV (Canada)         Video of ceremony


Associated Press              Obama pardons turkeys as part of annual White House rite


Pioneer Press                    This Minnesota turkey drew the short straw


Star Tribune                      So far, this Minnesota turkey is one lucky bird

* Includes Minnesota Turkey video footage, photos and a link to our micro-website


Star Tribune                      Minnesota turkeys win White House pardon


Star Tribune                      Minnesota continues grand tradition of not pardoning turkey                   Several blog posts


The Huffington Post       Obama pardons national Thanksgiving turkey


Dakota Student (UND)   Burkels to talk turkey at White House


India Times                        America’s biggest shopping weekend (turkey pardon mentioned)


Washington Times          Inside the Beltway – Obama Plan: Raise Money, Then Pardon Turkey                  What it takes to get a Presidential pardon


Canada Poultry                Standing proud                             Minnesota turkey goes up for presidential pardon


Staffer blog                         Recap of pardoning week

Governor Dayton, Minnesota’s Turkey Farmers Usher in Thanksgiving

For immediate release


Lara Durben, Communications Director

763/682-2171, cell 612/554-0920 or


MTGA Announces Donation of 10,000 Pounds of Turkey to Hunger Solutions Minnesota

 St. Paul, MN (November 25, 2013) – Governor Mark Dayton welcomed the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA) and a 36-pound tom turkey to the State Capitol today. The event marks a time-honored tradition, going back more than two decades, of Minnesota’s Governor kicking off Thanksgiving week in Minnesota.

“Today we give thanks for our state’s strong agriculture industry and the abundance of food Minnesota farmers provide for the world – including the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table, the turkey,” said MTGA President and turkey farmer John Zimmerman of Northfield, Minn.

At the event, Zimmerman announced the donation of approximately 10,000 pounds of turkey to Hunger Solutions Minnesota (HSM), which will be distributed to food shelves and food banks across the state.

We know there are many families who struggle to put food on the table,” said Zimmerman. “Minnesota’s turkey farmers are committed to helping do their part to combat hunger with this annual donation to Hunger Solutions Minnesota.”

The turkey donated today will feed over 12,500 people.

Zimmerman raises 3-4 million pounds of turkey on his family farm, which means his farm alone feeds up to 3 million people each and every year. He also raises 500 acres of corn and soybeans.

Since 2001, MTGA has donated 200,000 pounds of turkey to various areas of the state – or enough turkey to feed over 250,000 people.  This year, this donation provides turkeys to families in communities such as Cannon Falls, Faribault, Melrose, Willmar, Thief River Falls, Frazee, Perham and Buffalo.

These funds have been raised from contributions by Minnesota’s turkey farmers and MTGA allied members as well as a portion of the sales from MTGA’s Turkey To Go restaurant at the Minnesota State .

HSM, a comprehensive hunger relief organization that works to end hunger in Minnesota, will coordinate the purchase and distribution of the turkey.

According to HSM, In 2012, more than 8,500 people per day used Minnesota food shelves, an increase of 59% since the recession began in 2007.   Families with children account for more than 1.2 million Minnesota food shelf visits, and nearly 20,000 more children used food shelves in 2012 than in 2011.

Said Colleen Moriarty, HSM Executive Director: “Despite improvements in the economy, many Minnesota households still struggle to put food on the table.  Our food shelves really appreciate this donation of quality protein.  Families that visit the food shelves during the holidays will benefit greatly.  We continue to look for creative solutions so that no one in Minnesota has to skip meals or eat food that is low in quality. We greatly appreciate the many ways the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association supports our work.”

Approximately 250 turkey family farmers from Minnesota raise about 46 million birds annually, which places Minnesota at the #1 position in the U.S. for turkey production.

U.S. turkey production stands at 246 million – which means Minnesota farmers raise nearly 20% of all U.S. turkeys. Approximately 95% of all Americans will eat turkey at Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation.

MTGA was founded in 1939. Minnesota has the most independent turkey farmers of any state in the U.S. and is also home to three successful turkey processing companies – Jennie-O Turkey Store in Willmar, Northern Pride Cooperative in Thief River Falls, and Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall.  These companies collectively have created over 2,000 turkey products for the consumer and foodservice markets that are shipped across the country and the world.

Each turkey raised in Minnesota brings $17.46 in economic value to the state – which means Minnesota’s turkeys and the farmers who raise them generate over $800 million in economic activity for the state.

The tom turkey that participated in the Governor’s ceremony is one of the birds in a Presidential flock raised by John Burkel in Badger, MN. Burkel, the 2013 National Turkey Federation Chairman, is bringing two other birds in this special flock to Washington DC for the National Thanksgiving Turkey pardoning ceremony on Wednesday, November 27.


About MTGA

The MTGA, founded in 1939 and currently located in Buffalo, MN, is a nonprofit association dedicated to fostering a successful Minnesota turkey industry and its ability to make positive contributions to consumers, the economy, the environment and its members. Minnesota is currently ranked #1 for turkey production in the U.S. with its 250 turkey farmers raising an estimated 46 million turkeys in 2013. Minnesota has the most independent turkey farmers of any state in the U.S. For further information, visit or find us on Facebook: and Twitter (@MinnesotaTurkey).

About Hunger Solutions Minnesota

Hunger Solutions Minnesota works to end hunger by advancing fair nutrition policy and guiding grassroots advocacy on behalf of hungry Minnesotans and the diverse groups that serve them. We connect Minnesota’s food shelves and hunger-relief organizations with the necessary funding, technical assistance and logistical support to reach thousands of Minnesota individuals, families and children in need. Our work is made possible through the generous support of donors across the country; each sharing our commitment to ensuring no Minnesotan will struggle with food insecurity alone.  For further information, visit , on Twitter @hungersolutions or on Facebook


Road Trip to DC!

The Presidential Turkeys are Off to DC | via

Have you seen the photo we posted on Facebook earlier today? It’s the Presidential turkeys making their way to Washington DC in the back of their vehicle – looking very comfortable, we might add!

We just heard tonight – via the driver of the car – that the birds are loving Lady Gaga. Everytime they hear “Bad Romance” they gobble!

You can’t make this stuff up.

Badger, MN Turkey Farmer to Bring Turkeys to Washington DC for Presidential Pardon

Contact: Lara Durben, Minnesota Turkey Growers Association

763.682.2171 or



Badger, Minnesota Turkey Farmer to present the

National Thanksgiving Turkey to President Obama and family

(Buffalo, MN – November 2013) – John Burkel, a turkey farmer from Badger, Minn., will present this year’s National Thanksgiving Turkey to President Obama and his family on Wednesday, November 27.  Burkel has received this honor because he is the 2013 Chairman of the National Turkey Federation.

2013 marks the 66th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey tradition at the White House, a highly anticipated ritual, signaling the unofficial beginning of the holiday season and providing the President an opportunity to reflect publicly on the meaning of Thanksgiving. The ceremony itself, dating back to President Harry S. Truman, didn’t become an actual turkey pardoning until President George H.W. Bush declared it so in 1989.

The 2013 National Thanksgiving Turkey flock was hatched July 8. Initially, Burkel pulled about 80 toms (male turkeys) from the flock aside. This group was eventually whittled down to six toms with potential “star quality”, which were moved to a special shed on his farm. One of those toms will ultimately be selected as the National Thanksgiving Turkey, and one will be selected as his alternate.

Burkel is raising the National Thanksgiving turkey flock using normal feeding and other production techniques. The one exception is that the birds are provided increased interaction with people, light, and noise so that they will be prepared for the White House Ceremony.

The entire Burkel family – John, wife Joni, and their five children – will make the trip to Washington DC. In addition, the Badger High School senior class (which includes Burkel’s daughter, Andrea) will also travel to our nation’s Capitol for the festivities.

Burkel is the 12th Minnesotan to have the honor of presenting the National Thanksgiving Turkey to a U.S. President.

MTGA is hosting and maintaining a special section on its website for the project at The website includes pictures, video and a weekly blog written by the Burkel Family chronicling the care, management, and extra visitors the special flock has had. The site also features fun turkey puzzles, mazes and color sheets for kids as well as information for parents on nutrition, food safety and plenty of family-friendly turkey recipes.

MTGA also ran a naming contest for the two turkeys on its website, which culminated in the following top 3 most popular names being sent on to the White House for consideration:

1)      Viking & Gunnar

2)      Gobblynob & Butterfluff

3)      Ole & Sven

The White House makes the ultimate decision on what the two turkeys will be named.

MTGA is visiting four different schools in the metro area with a brother of the prestigious turkey that will be spending Thanksgiving at the White House.  “We’re excited to be able bring turkeys into the classroom because it’s really the best way for kids to learn more about where their food comes from and the important work that all farmers do to provide safe, nutritious and affordable food to the world,” said Steve Olson, executive director of MTGA.

In addition to the website, MTGA uses Facebook ( and Twitter (@MinnesotaTurkey) to help publicize additional details of the National Thanksgiving Turkey.

For more information, please visit


About John Burkel:

John Burkel is a fourth generation turkey farmer from Badger, MN and he raises approximately 70,000 turkey hens annually for the whole bird market for Northern Pride, Inc., a grower-owned turkey processing facility located in Thief River Falls, MN.  The cooperative was formed in 1989 by independent turkey growers throughout Northern Minnesota and North Dakota.

John has served on the Northern Pride board of directors since 2000 and also served as a board member for the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association from 1999-2008, acting as president of that organization in 2004-2005.

Since 2007, John has been a member of the National Turkey Federation (NTF) Executive Committee and currently serves as the 2013 NTF Chairman. He has also served as chairman of NTF’s Live Production Committee and TURPAC, NTF’s political action committee.

He and his wife Joni have five children – Vanessa (sophomore in college), Andrea (senior in high school), Alex (sophomore in high school), Jack (5th grade) and Emily (kindergarten).

About MTGA

MTGA is a nonprofit trade organization based in Buffalo, Minn., that began in 1939 with a mission to foster a successful turkey industry in Minnesota. The state ranks #1 for turkey production and processing in the U.S. with its 250 turkey farmers raising approximately 47 million turkeys annually. Minnesota has the most family-owned turkey farms of any state in the U.S. and many of these turkey farmers are 3rd, 4th and 5th generation farmers. For more information, visit or

Get Your Gobble On!

Just in time for the weekend … check out this fun video of folks from Minnesota getting their gobble on!  Most are from Badger High School – filmed by Alex Burkel. If there was ever a turkey video worth sharing with your friends, this is it! :-)

Badger, MN Classroom Visits to the Farm

Last week, two classes from Badger Elementary School visited the Presidential flock, learned more about raising turkeys and, in the process, helped acclimate the turkeys even further to lots of noise and commotion. The photos below are of the kindergarten and 5th grade classes.

John and Joni Burkel’s two youngest children, Emily and Jack are part of those classes, as well. Emily is a kindergartner and Jack is a 5th grader. Judging from these photos, it looks like everyone had a great time learning about turkeys!

Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 | Student Visits on the Farm - via




Jack handing out turkey toes

Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 | Student Visits on the Farm - via






It Takes Two to Tango

Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 - from Minnesota | via

This post is purely for fun and entertainment! One of the Badger High School students was in the large turkey barn at the Burkel farm last week and found herself a friend – or dancing partner, perhaps!

We couldn’t resist creating this video – thanks, Kate, for giving us permission!