Turkey Talk: June is Turkey Lover’s Month

June is Turkey Lovers Month2016 marks the 27th year of “June is Turkey Lovers’ Month” but if I was a betting woman, I’d say most people don’t even know that this fun designation exists. Our friends over in the dairy industry share June with us and, in all fairness, they snagged it for Dairy Month long before turkey came around, so I can understand why this might be a little more visible.

Plus, everybody loves ice cream, right?

What’s interesting, though, is how this shows both the strides the turkey industry has made in the past three decades as well as the challenges still before us.

We’re eating more turkey – but we need to eat more!

Turkey consumption has increased a whopping 110 percent since 1970. What was once considered a Thanksgiving bird has morphed into a year-round protein option with a variety of cuts and products available.  But we can do more – and our industry is poised to show folks just how versatile turkey is for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The benefits of year-round turkey production

Year-round turkey production wasn’t always a thing because turkeys typically were raised outdoors. In Minnesota where I’m from, turkey farmers could only raise turkeys from April or May until October for pretty obvious reasons – turkeys were not about to survive the brutal winters we have if they lived outside. Luckily, our farmers had the foresight and wherewithal to move their birds into climate-controlled barns, growing their businesses in the process. Raising turkeys in barns also had the added benefit of protecting turkeys from predators and threats of diseases.

Minnesota’s big on turkeys

Today, many of the same farm families who made these monumental changes to their production methods are still raising turkeys today, so there is a wealth of knowledge from which to learn. Minnesota is also home to some of the most entrepreneurial families in the turkey industry, who created, for example, what is now the world’s largest turkey hatchery company (Willmar Poultry Company) and the 2nd largest turkey company in the U.S. (Jennie-O Turkey Store).

It’s not hard to see why Minnesota is ranked #1 for turkey production in the U.S. – and has been for quite some time.

What’s next?

We’re excited to be working together as an industry, in efforts coordinated by the National Turkey Federation, to increase consumption of turkey to 20 pounds per person by 2020. (It’s currently at about 16 pounds per person.)

In Minnesota, we’re also working every day to show folks what turkey farming – real, honest-to-goodness, modern turkey farming – looks like today. We’re combating persistent myths like turkeys grow so big and fast because of added hormones and steroids. (Not true. In fact, it’s illegal to give ANY added hormones or steroids to poultry in the U.S.) And we’re utilizing social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube), our website, and a soon-to-debut blog to connect our farmers with consumers.

Lara Durben

As we round out June, I hope you will join me by adding a little extra turkey to your meals in celebration of June is Turkey Lovers’ Month. If you’re in need of some fabulous, family-friendly ways to #tryturkey, I encourage you to visit my blog, My Other More Exciting Self, where I share a new turkey recipe almost every Tuesday and also write often about poultry.