Posts

Why Do We Overproduce in Agriculture? (In Other Words, Eat More Turkey!)

It doesn’t matter what segment of agriculture you are in, or even life in general, when things are going good for us, we tend to want more.  It is just simple human nature.  It doesn’t matter if you raise livestock or sell houses; in general, we seem to always be looking for more.  How to cut costs, how to increase efficiencies, how to market products better; all in order to maximize our profits.  I am not saying this is a bad thing, I am just making a very large generalization that, in our society, we tend to measure success by how much stuff we have including, but not limited to, money.

Can we do what we enjoy doing, cash flow and have a little left over to live on? This is the goal of writing any business plan or business start-up.  There are many levels to this statement based on how large or small the business, whether it is privately or publicly owned and so on and so forth but either way businesses still should be profitable long term.

This is the main reason agriculture overproduces. I think agriculture, and even more specifically animal agriculture, the difference between the good and bad years are so drastic that farmers find themselves ramping up production over a couple of years, to the point of overproducing in the good times, in order to make it through the bad. Again, the human nature thing takes over. Add to this the fact that as processors see the opportunity to make profits, they are quick to agree to, or even ask, producers to increase volume.  Also, many processors are also producers so then there is the ability to make it on both the growing and marketing ends of the spectrum.

As we look to the end of 2017 and 2018, I’m not going to sugarcoat it – the outlook is a little grim in the turkey industry. We are coming off a couple years of pretty good profitability, some better than others but overall, good times. As an industry we increased how many pounds we produced in 2016 and year to date in 2017 compared with to the prior 3 year average and projections through year end seem to stay heading in this same direction.  The “MORE is better”, human nature thing again.

Unfortunately, we are now past the point that our supply of turkey is getting larger than the demand.  Also, other meat industries have also increase their production over the same time so the added supply of all meat proteins is pulling down the value for all producers since it is fairly easy to substitute any animal protein into meals. Because of this, it is easy for shoppers in a grocery store to buy whatever is the cheapest meat to make for their families. This isn’t a big deal for us who raise the animals; my wife and I tend to do the same thing when we are shopping. The problem comes when the price wholesale purchasers and retail consumers are willing to pay is less than the cost to produce, process and market it.  This seems to be where we are or will be heading in the very near future in the turkey industry.

There are many factors that might affect this supply and demand problem going forward but the easiest and simplest way is for the demand to increase in the U.S. and/or export markets. Simply said, please add a little more turkey meats to your normal meal plans whether at home or at a restaurant. And while you’re stocking up for the Thanksgiving meal, take advantage of the supermarket sales and add a second or even third turkey to your cart and then stick these in your freezer at home for use this winter. All of us in the turkey industry would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks for reading – and if you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to post them here or head over to Minnesota Turkey’s Facebook page and share your thoughts.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Follow the National Thanksgiving Turkey Flock!

National Thanksgiving Turkey and Its Alternate Coming from Alexandria!

National Thanksgiving Turkey flock via MinnesotaTurkey.com

November is always a busy month for Minnesota’s turkey farmers, which are ranked #1 for turkey production in the U.S. This year, however, will place an even bigger spotlight on Minnesota as the National Turkey Federation Chairman Carl Wittenburg and his wife, Sharlene, from Alexandria, Minn., have been officially invited to bring two turkeys to Washington DC for the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey event at the White House. Their special flock hatched in late June and now the Wittenburgs have about 20 turkeys vying for the privilege of traveling to Washington DC.

A video introducing the Wittenburgs and their family history in the turkey industry – both Carl and Sharlene grew up on turkey farms in Minnesota and North Dakota – can be viewed on YouTube:

Today, the couple raises about 100,000 turkeys on their family farm in Wyndmere, North Dakota, while also running a business – Protein Alliance –  for brokering a variety of proteins (including turkey), living in Alexandria, and raising their three sons.

The Wittenburgs are working with five 4-H members from Douglas County on this project. The high school students are visiting the flock regularly to help the birds get used to people coming and going, noises, music, and so forth.

“We’re so excited to provide such an amazing national platform to showcase Minnesota’s 4-H program,” said Carl Wittenburg. “Douglas County is the birthplace of Minnesota 4-H so this was a natural fit for us.”

You can follow along with all the fun on MinnesotaTurkey.com’s website, which has a special Presidential Turkey section that includes photos, videos, activities for kids, and resources for parents/teachers. The following social media platforms will also be a great place to catch the latest photos and fun events:

  • Facebook.com/minnesotaturkey and Facebook.com/presidentialturkey
  • Instagram – @MinnesotaTurkey and @PresidentialTurkey
  • Snaptchat – MinnesotaTurkey

Coming November 16 is a special Facebook Live virtual tour (starting at 10 am CST) with the Presidential Flock, the Wittenburgs, and the 4-H members. Cosponsored by Minnesota Turkey and Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom, the event is open to anyone – just visit Facebook.com/minnesotaturkey for event details.

“The Facebook Live event will be the perfect opportunity for classrooms to participate and show students the National Thanksgiving Turkey Flock while they learn more about turkey farming in Minnesota. Plus there will be plenty of time ask questions during the event,” said Steve Olson, Executive Director, Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. “The event is open to anyone with an interest in turkey farming and the National Thanksgiving Turkey project – the more the merrier!”

Everyone can also get involved in the Presidential Turkey Naming Contest on the website – visit between now and November 10 and submit your name suggestions for the two turkeys going to Washington DC. We will compile the most popular sets and give them to the White House for consideration.

The official hashtag for the National Thanksgiving Turkey project is #PresidentialTurkey.

About MTGA

The MTGA, founded in 1939 and 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 in 2017. Minnesota has the most independent turkey farmers – from 1st to 6th generation farm families – of any state in the U.S. For further information, visit http://www.minnesotaturkey.com/www.minnesotaturkey.com or find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MinnesotaTurkey, Twitter (@MinnesotaTurkey), Pinterest (@MinnesotaTurkey), Snapchat (MinnesotaTurkey), and Instagram (@MinnesotaTurkey).

Half Full

Minnesota Turkey Farm via MinnesotaTurkey.com

We have been struggling the last year to try to keep a full staff.

It seems as though things are starting to click and then we hit another snag for whatever reason, and believe me there are some dandy ones.  There have been some busy stretches where people have had to fill in short and long term for an open position or for someone who wasn’t able to make it that day. This has made for some particularly busy days when other things or events were planned – but I think that is the same in any line of work. Our only issue is the fact that the farm business is 7 days a week and usually (ironically!) the majority of the problems are on the weekend. We try to stress the team environment here as much as possible and I am grateful for everyone who helps us in times like these. There are so many hard-working people in central Minnesota and we are very fortunate to have some of them work for us.

Minnesota Turkey Farm via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.com

I will be honest, there have been a time or two through all this where I have wondered why we keep raising birds.  With help issues, the problems with animal rights and consumer groups demanding how we raise our animals (which I talked about in my last post), and all the risks that go along with getting healthy birds to market, profitably, the days aren’t always perfect.  Then you get a nice spring day like today and I realize why we still do what we do.

Full sunshine and 75-80 degrees is a great anti-depressant. Doors are all open and birds are sunning and dusting themselves.  They are running, flapping wings and jumping all over the place.  They make little 10-20 foot circles of open space and keep running and dancing through these areas, I think they look like turkey mosh pits but I still haven’t joined in one yet. The barns are all nice and dry because the humidity is low this time of year.  Tractors are busy getting field work done everywhere.  Jackets, caps and boots are no longer needed to be put on and off 100 times a day. Things are finer than frog’s hair, everyone is healthy for the most part, and life is good!  My cup is definitely half full, probably closer to three quarters.

Minnesota Turkey Farm via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.com

Make sure to try some turkey products on your grills and smokers this spring/summer – and if you’re on social media, post those photos with the hashtag, #tryturkey, so we can see them!  My favorite is cutting up turkey breast tenderloins and making shish kebabs out of them with onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, pineapple, and drink cherries.

Thanks for reading these blog posts and for your support of the turkey industry.

The Penny

The Penny - How It Relates to Turkey Production | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #turkeyeveryday #agchat #MNAg #minnesotaturkey

Santa brought my daughter, Abby, the “Game of Life” board game this past Christmas and let’s just say we have played a few games the last few weeks. I remember playing the same game when I was growing up but the new version has definitely changed with the times. You can choose to go to the “Career Route” or “College Career Route”.  Pretty normal decision made by most graduating high schoolers. And just like in real life, the College Career Route takes half your money instantly but your income come payday is hopefully a little higher for the rest of the game.

There are other decisions you need to make on the way such as choosing to go to night school to change careers half-way though, or just continue on the life path you were on.  Also, choosing to take what is called a “Family Route”, which increases your chance of having children, or continuing again on the life path you are on.  The last decision you have to make is whether or not to choose a risky path, where quite a bit of money can be made or lost, somewhat like investing money, or the safe path which is status quo. At the end you count the money and whoever has the most, wins the game. Pretty neat concept to teach children about the flows of life.

The Penny - How It Relates to Turkey Production | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #turkeyeveryday #agchat #MNAg #minnesotaturkey

My wife, Brenda, two older children, Abby and Wyatt, and I were playing a game the other day and we were counting our money at the end when our youngest child, Isaac, just happened to come to the table with an actual penny in his hand. I decided he won the game since he was the only one who had any money on the table with actual value.

A penny…our smallest unit of currency won the game!  I have heard many reports of why we should stop making pennies since they cost more to mint than they are is worth.  There are a lot of people who won’t bend over to pick one up when found on the ground and most convenience stores have a “take one, leave one” container at their counters so you don’t have to have a few cents making noise in your pockets.  What role does the penny have in our society?  I don’t have the slightest idea but I can tell you what it means in our business.

Our marketing contracts with our processor are all based on net pounds of live production.  This means we get paid a certain amount for every “useable” pound of bird we sell.  We talk in tenths and hundredths of a cent daily.  It is very common to get hung up on one or two tenths of a cent when it comes to negotiating these contracts.  Yes, that’s right, $.001.  It won’t go a long way in filling your gas tank but when you multiply it out over a couple million net pounds of turkey processed it adds up fast.

Our contract pays us what formulas say it SHOUD cost for certain thing such as feed cost, poult cost, heating cost, and then there is a classification called “Other Growing Cost”.  These are exactly what the words say, all the other costs associated with raising birds such as: labor costs, electric expenses, medication costs, loan and interest payments, and bedding costs to name a few.  This whole portion is called the Base portion of the contract. Then there is a Market portion of the contract that adds to or takes away from the Base portion depending on what the Base value is compared with the Market value.  If the Market value is higher, it pays a premium and if it is lower, some is taken away.  At the end there are a few incentives or deductions based of performance and we have our value we get paid per net pound of bird.

It is so interesting to look at how a tenth of a cent savings here or a quarter of a cent there can make a huge difference on the bottom line. It so easy to say we should have done this or that looking back at a flock after processing but a little harder to see when the birds are in the barns.  I guess the best thing to do is to just keep “picking up the pennies” when we see them during the flock and hopefully they will add up at the end.  A few examples are things like not running too much heat and wasting fuel, leaving lights on during summer days, having feed spills all over the barn, and most importantly keeping the birds comfortable with optimal growing conditions.  Each difference might only make a fraction of a difference but when added together can mean a lot.

That is why I always will bend down to pick up a penny when I see one on the ground. It might be the difference in winning or losing the game whether it is business or Life.

Happy New Year to All!

Pete

,

Minnesota Turkey Video Project Showcases Turkey Farming Today

Turkey Tracks Video Project | Turkey Farming 101 #turkeyeveryday

Contact:
Lara Durben, MTGA Communications Director
763/682-2171 or ldurben@minnesotaturkey.com

(Buffalo, MN) … Just in time for Thanksgiving, the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association has released a new set of videos on its website, MinnesotaTurkey.com, that showcases the different facets of raising turkeys.

A total of 10 videos provide a “Turkey Farming 101” overview of raising turkeys today. Videos include:

• Raising Turkeys – A Family Business
• Raising Turkeys in Barns
• Caring for Young Turkeys
• Feeding Healthy Turkeys
• A Focus on Bird Health
• A Healthy Living Environment
• The Scoop on Turkey Poop
• The Cost of Care
• Market Bound
• Avian Influenza and Me

“Since many people have never been inside a turkey barn, these videos are designed to get up close and personal with turkeys and what’s involved in the day-to-day operations of running a turkey farm,” said MTDGA Executive Director Steve Olson. “From feed and nutrition and bird health to the scoop on turkey poop, we cover all the major aspects of raising turkeys today.”

Each video is around two minutes long and posted at MinnesotaTurkey.com/turkey-farming-101. All videos are also available on Minnesota Turkey’s YouTube channel (Youtube.com/MinnesotaTurkey).

Approximately 450 turkey family farmers from Minnesota raise an average of about 45 million birds annually, although production was down slightly in 2015 due to highly-pathogenic avian influenza. Despite that, Minnesota remains in the #1 position in the U.S. for turkey production.

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.

###

About MTGA
The MTGA, founded in 1939 and 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 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.

For further information, visit http://www.minnesotaturkey.com/ or find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MinnesotaTurkey and Twitter (@MinnesotaTurkey).

,

Learn about Poultry Farming at Minnesota State Fair

For immediate release

Contact:                                                                                                      

  • Lara Durben, Minnesota Turkey Research & Promotion Council
  • Ph: 763/682-2171 (office) or 612/554-0920 (cell)
  • ldurben@minnesotaturkey.com

(Buffalo, MN) … The Minnesota State Fair is the place to be to learn about poultry farming, with multiple locations throughout the fairgrounds dedicated to turkeys, chickens and egg laying hens.

The Poultry Barn – located on Clough Street across the street from Turkey To Go concession stand – will not be displaying live birds this year because of the highly-pathogenic avian influenza outbreak. However, there is a wealth of information planned for this space on Minnesota’s turkey farmers, including:

  • Watch “A Day in the Life of a Turkey Farmer” video , as farmer Scott Heymer of Red Bridge Farms, Princeton, Minnesota, walks you through the typical tasks of his day while also talking about the priorities of bird health, food safety, and protecting the environment. (View here: http://minnesotaturkey.com/farmers/farmer-videos/)
  • Take a “Turkey Selfie” in front of a photo backdrop of turkeys.
  • Thank a farmer by writing a postcard, generously provided by the Minnesota State Fair. Your card will be delivered to one of the many poultry farmers in Minnesota.
  • View the informative banners and other information about avian influenza and poultry production
  • Listen to presentations on poultry by veterinarians, farmers and others.

Minnesota Turkey Research & Promotion Council’s booth in the Dairy Building will feature:

  • A large pictorial display on the history of turkey farming
  • A comprehensive look at how turkey products get to your kitchen table
  • A fun turkey-cutout of a tom (male) and hen (female) turkey for photos
  • Free recipe cards and other brochures

Both the popular Miracle of Birth Center and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s booth in the Horticulture Building will display several informative banners on avian influenza and poultry production.

And don’t miss Gobble Gobble Cluck Cluck Day on Thursday, September 3 at the Christensen Farms Stage next to the Miracle of Birth Center, where a variety of fun and interactive activities will take place from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.:

  • Minute to Win It – Gobble Gobble Cluck Cluck Edition – a game show (with prizes!) for all ages where folks can hone their skills at an egg tower, feather challenge, ponginator, corn/soybean sort, and more!
  • Gobble Gobble Cluck Cluck Trivia Challenge – test your knowledge of all things poultry and win prizes!
  • Poultry Dance – Join Tom and Tillie Turkey as they dance their tailfeathers off to the ever-popular Chicken Dance!

“While live poultry will not be shown at the State Fair this year due to the highly-pathogenic avian influenza outbreak hitting Minnesota’s poultry industry this past spring, we’re confident that we have a variety of activities, displays, and information available for fairgoers who are interested in poultry farming,” said MTRPC Executive Director Steve Olson. “We are  especially grateful for the support and efforts of the Minnesota State Fair, FFA, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and 4-H organizations as we all worked together to make this a positive poultry experience for fairgoers.”

About Minnesota Turkey Research & Promotion Council (MTRPC)

The Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council is an organization of turkey farmers that is recognized as a leading source for the latest turkey information.  Since 1965, the MTRPC has worked diligently to encourage consumers to eat more turkey year-round, sponsor innovative turkey research and educate a variety of audiences about the benefits of turkey. Programming at the MTRPC is funded by a voluntary grower checkoff program. MTRPC is the first agriculture checkoff organization in Minnesota’s history.

The state ranks #1 for turkey production and processing in the U.S. with its 450 turkey farmers raising approximately 46 million turkeys annually. Minnesota has the most family-owned turkey farms of any state in the U.S. and many of these turkey producers are 3rd, 4th and 5th generation farmers.

For more information, visit www.minnesotaturkey.com or www.facebook.com/MinnesotaTurkey.  You can also find Minnesota Turkey on Twitter (@MinnesotaTurkey) and Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/MinnesotaTurkey).

– 30 –

Myth-Busting: Turkey Style

For immediate release

Contact: Lara Durben, Phone: 763/682-2171 | Mobile: 612/554-0920, ldurben@minnesotaturkey.com

 

MYTH:

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

TRUTH:

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.

 

MYTH:

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

TRUTH:

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.

 

MYTH:

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.

TRUTH:

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.

 

MYTH:

There are very few family farmers who raise turkeys.

TRUTH:

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.

 

MYTH:

Eating turkey makes you very tired.

TRUTH:

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.

 

MYTH:

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

TRUTH:

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.

 

MYTH:

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

TRUTH:

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.

 

MYTH:

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

TRUTH:

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, JennieO.com, Butterball.com, Food Network.com.