Veggie Fed Turkeys

Veggie Fed Turkeys via

“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!

Raising Antibiotic-Free Turkeys

Hi, my name is Ashley Klaphake – wife of Jon Klaphake. I married into the turkey business; however I had experience growing up on a dairy farm. Jon and I have two kids who are excited about the birds every time they see them. We took over operations at Meadowlark Turkeys LLC near Melrose, Minn., beginning January 1st, 2017 and we employ one person for the time being. Prior to January 1, Jon and his dad, Glen, raised turkeys and over 900 acres in crops. Jon has been raising birds for most of his life.

We are a third generation family farm which was founded in 1972. We raise 250,000 turkeys a year which equates to about 3.6 million pounds per year. We raise a combination of light hens and heavy hens, growth ranging between 13-17 1/2 weeks of age. My roles on the farm can range from brooding on days when Jon needs some extra help along with most of the administrative management tasks.

For our farm, we’ve taken a leap into raising antibiotic-free, vegetable-fed turkeys, which has been a new opportunity for us. We were approached by Jennie-O Turkey Store to raise antibiotic-free, vegetable-fed turkeys back in July 2016. This is part of why I’m excited to start the conversation here on this blog regarding our new adventure and how it’s working for us.

 Our Test Run

We definitely had some learning to do as our barns were raising conventional birds for years and years. Breaking it down to its simplest form, the many different organisms within a barn had to be stripped away. We had to flush out these colonies so we would be successful at raising an antibiotic-free bird to market.

We started our very first brooder barn of antibiotic-free birds in November 2016. We had our first hiccup in December, when we had some turkeys get sick so we found it necessary to humanely treat a barn with antibiotics. We did not want – and never want – to see our birds suffer from being sick. Because of this, we learned we  needed to make a few adjustments regarding timing and dosage of vaccinations along with adding more probiotics. It became clear pretty fast that it takes a lot more finessing the first four weeks of the birds’ life when we are raising an antibiotic-free flock.

Why go through the extra work, you might ask? We feel change is on the horizon and in this moment we are going through a paradigm shift – a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions – on the way we do things on our farm. This is true regarding what some consumers are asking for in the marketplace and also true regarding how all poultry farmers administer and use antibiotics. New guidelines came into play this year, which all poultry farmers adhere to, and for us, we decided this meant an opportunity to move to providing turkey for the antibiotic-free market.

Our turkeys are raised under the label “no antibiotics ever.” And as I noted above, if we do have birds that are sick, they can – and should be – humanely treated with antibiotics. If that would happen, the birds would be raised conventionally and would not be labeled with “no antibiotics ever” in the grocery store.

It’s important to note that ALL turkey you purchase in the grocery store are antibiotic-free. If farmers use antibiotics to treat an illness in a flock, there are required withdrawal times that must be followed before the flock can be processed. All turkey flocks are tested prior to going to market to ensure this is the case.

Jon and I saw an opportunity, an opportunity that could open more doors and help us raise the best turkey possible – which ultimately is the goal of all turkey farmers regardless of their production methods! We have been successfully raising antibiotic-free veggie-fed birds since November and have enjoyed it this far.

I look forward to sharing more about our family farm with you in future blog posts. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please put them in the comment section and I’ll do my best to answer them!