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Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!  This week I wanted to share something you can discuss around the table and will go along with the main course – North Carolina’s turkey production.  North Carolina has been one of the leading producers of turkeys for a number of years. The farming of turkeys is concentrated in the southern piedmont and coastal regions.  See the map below with the largest producing counties in 2012.

FUN FACT: Sampson County produces more turkeys than any other county in the state, and it is also home to a small town named Turkey.

Turkey is part of the poultry industry, which is under the larger category of livestock.  In North Carolina, livestock includes cattle, milk production, sheep and lambs, hogs, chickens, eggs, broilers (young chickens), and turkeys.  Turkey production in North Carolina started being recorded in 1929 by the Department of Agriculture.  Since that time, the lowest producing year was 1931 with 198,000 turkeys, and the highest was 1992 with 62 million.  In 2011, there were 32 million turkeys raised and 1.13 billion pounds produced with a value of $772.5 million statewide.

North Carolina was the number one producing state from 1981 until it was passed in the mid-2000s by Minnesota following many challenging obstacles the turkey industry has had to endure in recent years.  Many new diseases have affected the turkey industry, while a rise in corn prices (the main ingredient in turkey feed) has caused the price of production to increase.  In addition, the demand for chickens has eroded some of the consumer demand for turkey meat and caused farmers to switch to chicken production.  All of this said, North Carolina is still the second largest turkey producing state in America. 

North Carolina’s strong turkey industry is a great resource, as the United States is the largest consumer of turkey in the world, thanks to the holiday traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The largest export market for U.S. turkey meat is Mexico, receiving almost 200,000 tons annually.  North Carolina is also home to three large turkey companies: Butterball in Garner, House of Raeford Farms in Raeford, and Prestage Foods in St. Pauls.

So while you sit at the table this Thanksgiving holiday, remember that you are more than likely eating a North Carolina turkey, and share some great North Carolina facts with the family.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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