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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!

Veggie Fed Turkeys

Veggie Fed Turkeys via Minnesotaturkey.com

“Do you like that Veggie Feed?”

We’ve been asked many times from consumers and other farmers, “How do you like raising vegetable fed birds?” We’ve heard other farmers not having luck, and they like conventional feed provided. We’ve also been asked, “Do the birds like the feed?”, “What differences have you seen since swapping out conventional feed over to vegetable feed?” We’re happy to say, our birds have adapted well and we think our birds like vegetable feed better. Their guts seem tighter (meaning, their stool isn’t as loose). They seem to be more active, running around more, the litter is drier, and the air quality has improved.

Some have asked, “Do your birds take longer to grow to their optimal weight?” Answer is: Yes. Yes, they take an average of an extra 4-7 days longer to reach their optimal weight.

“Are your feed costs higher?” Yes, our feed costs are just a bit higher however, feed conversion is the same.

Priding ourselves in the ABF market (never treated with antibiotics) we also know the vegetable feed given to our birds has been a major factor in the meat quality. We have to butcher a few turkeys each flock before they go to market. The reason we need to do this is to collect fat and blood sampling so all is approved before selling our birds to consumers. After we collect these samples we then harvest the meat off the bird (as you can imagine, we get to eat lots of turkey!) One major improvement we’ve noticed since converting over to vegetable fed turkey is that we feel the meat/breasts are juicy and much more tender! (Read below for our quick turkey breast recipe).

As we’re in this farming business wholeheartedly, going back to the basics is what we BELIEVE in. Farming in this fashion suits us. We enjoy feeding our turkeys vegetable based feed as we’ve seen many more positives after implementing this farming concept. I thoroughly enjoy talking to other farmers and understanding what works and what doesn’t work – and every farm is a different. “We,” as turkey farmers stick together and take lots of pride in what we do – and we learn from each other.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions below. After all we’re all learning this together, I believe the more we can learn from each other the better we can suit our consumers and industry as a whole. Thanks for taking the time; have a nice day!

Instant Pot Turkey Breasts

Boneless Turkey Breasts in the Instant Pot

  • 1 boneless turkey breast or turkey tenderloin (equivalent to about the same size as a chicken breast)
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil or garlic infused oil
  • 2 Tablespoons seasoned salt
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Cover breast(s) with oil and rub in the seasoned salt.

Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth.

Insert trivet into the pot and place breasts on it.

Place lid on the pot and set vent to SEALING.

Select MANUAL and use the +/- buttons to change time to 4-5 minutes.

When pressure cycle is over, let the pressure release naturally.

Open pot and enjoy your juicy, flavorful turkey!

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Thanksgiving Week Kicks Off with Governor Dayton Talking Turkey

 MTGA Announces Donation of $9,000 Toward Turkey Product Purchases to Hunger Solutions Minnesota

St. Paul, MN (November 21, 2016) – Governor Mark Dayton continued the time-honored tradition – dating back to the 1940s – of kicking off Thanksgiving week with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA) and Minnesota Turkey Research & Promotion Council (MTRPC) at the State Capitol today. Also in special attendance was a tom (male) turkey, raised near Melrose, Minn.

“As we look back on 2016 and compare it to 2015, our farmers are thankful for the success we have had this year after rebounding from the impact of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza,” said MTRPC President Robert Orsten, a turkey breeder farmer from Willmar, Minn. ”Fortunately, 2016 has been influenza free for our flocks, yet we remain diligent in our preparation to protect bird health if the virus should return.”

At the event, Orsten announced the donation of approximately $9,000 to Hunger Solutions Minnesota (HSM), which will go toward the purchase of turkey products to 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 Orsten. “Minnesota’s turkey farmers are committed to helping do their part to combat hunger with our annual donation to Hunger Solutions Minnesota.”

Orsten grew up on a turkey farm, and today he and his family have farms in Kandiyohi and Swift counties where they raise 70,000 breeder turkeys and also grow corn, beans, and hay.

Since 2001, MTGA has donated approximately 235 million pounds of turkey to various areas of the state, which will feed 315,000 people in Minnesota. In other words, enough turkey feed Kandiyohi County – where the Orstens raise most of the birds – 7.5 times over!

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. One in five Minnesota families struggles to put healthy meals on their tables. The need for emergency food relief continues to be a problem in Minnesota even as our economy has improved.

“As we prepare for Thanksgiving, it’s important to keep in mind our neighbors who struggle with food insecurity throughout the year,” said Colleen Moriarty, Executive Director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota. “Hunger Solutions Minnesota connects people in need with resources through the Minnesota Food HelpLine, and supports local food shelves throughout the state. The generosity of groups like the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association has an impact on the families we serve throughout the year.”

Approximately 450 turkey family farmers from Minnesota raise about 46 million birds annually. Minnesota remains steadfast at the #1 position in the U.S. for turkey production.

Current U.S. turkey production stands at 228 million this year – 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.

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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 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 www.minnesotaturkey.com or find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MinnesotaTurkey 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 www.hungersolutions.org, on Twitter @hungersolutions or on Facebook www.facebook.com/HungerSolutionsMinnesota