Party Fowl. The proud turkey is the star of Thanksgiving in North America. Their leaner, less-fatty meat has meant a boom in consumption as Americans become increasingly health conscious. Turkey agriculture is literally a multi-billion industry in the US. Here are the top 10 turkey-producing states in the country, according to USDA figures.
At number ten is Ohio. With several large cities, generally flat geography, and a whole lot of arable land, the Buckeye State has plenty of room for turkeys. They produce 6.1 million birds per year. According to The Times Leader, out of Martin’s Ferry, OH, that’s 300 million pounds of meat.
Danville, OH, is one city known for rebranding as a heritage turkey farming hub. Ohio is the tenth-largest turkey-producing state and has one of the highest wild turkey populations in the US.
Though we often think of turkeys as all coming from a picturesque forest in New England, they’re actually a worldwide phenomenon (including Turkey—on farms, anyway). And this includes California. The Golden State produces 6.2 million turkeys per year.
New research and some fossilized bones show us that nearby parts of the Southwestern US may have seen ancient turkey domestication with ancestors dating back to Asia around 2,000 BC.
There are many organically farmed options for the turkey buyer in California. They come in as the ninth-highest turkey-producing state.
Pennsylvania has more of a turkey-friendly geography; the wooded Appalachians run clear through the Keystone State. And agriculturally, this state produces 7.7 million turkeys per year.
The state apparently has some skilled turkey farmers: an Orefield, PA farm has given the White House their Thanksgiving bird for several years going back to the 1950s.
Iowa certainly has a lot of agriculture, but it’s much more than corn. Interestingly, archaeologists studying the history of turkeys have noted that in places in North America where they find evidence of ancient corn, it’s not uncommon to find evidence of ancient turkeys in the same area. In present times, Iowa has both turkeys and corn. The state produces 11.7 million turkeys per year.
Turkey is big in Virginia, with many organic and heritage turkey options. They produce a hefty 15.3 million turkeys per year. At one time, over half of the 200+ turkey farms in the Old Dominion state were in the single county of Rockingham.
It’s not just the farming of turkeys that Missouri enjoys; the central and northern counties of the state bag a good number of wildfowl during hunting season. A recent spring harvest for wild turkeys was 41,000.
But agriculturally, it’s still one of the largest turkey-producing states. Missouri farmers produce 17 million of the gobblers every year.
Indiana produces 20 million turkeys a year. 20 million birds and Hoosiers have the smallest state so far! And, like Iowa, there’s plenty of corn and soy to keep the birds fed. A typical 30-pound turkey will consume about 75 to 80 pounds of feed to reach that size.
And the wild turkey in this state isn’t doing too bad, either. Just a few years ago, 89 of Indiana’s 92 counties tagged at least one of the hunted fowl. The fourth largest turkey-producing state helped bring the wild turkey back from only 400 birds in 1977.
Agriculture in Arkansas, specifically its production of 26 million turkeys annually, is a huge deal. In fact, turkeys are so vital to the Natural State that their governor just declared their first official Arkansas State Turkey Week.
2. North Carolina
A cluster of counties in the state’s southeast is the turkey powerhouse, with Sampson County being the leader. Some quick math tells us that one out of roughly every thirty-three turkeys in the US comes from a single county in North Carolina. That’s a busy county in one of the largest turkey-producing states.
The crown for turkey production goes to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The Minnesota Turkey Grower’s Association alone has 600 farms as members. This mostly prairie land state, with rough but predictable weather, produces 37 million turkeys per year!
The famous flowery-feathered fowl make for big business and big meals during the holidays. Not making the top ten of the largest turkey-producing states, but still worthy of mention are Michigan with 5.2 million, West Virginia with 3.7 million, and South Dakota with 2.5 million birds produced annually.
That’s a lot to gobble up!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Migo Photos/Shutterstock.com
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