Turkey is big business in Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Turkey is big business in Iowa

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SUMNER (KWWL) -

In just two days, you might be gathering around a table to gobble down some turkey with all the trimmings.  That turkey just might be one raised in Iowa, since Iowa is in the top ten turkey producing states.  But Thanksgiving isn't the reason the Hawkeye State's turkey business is growing. 

The 11 week old turkeys at Kuethe Turkey Farms in Sumner won't end up on your Thanksgiving table this year.  They're plumping up and gobbling away in the barn until they turn 20 weeks old and can be taken to market.

"We try to keep them as comfortable as possible.  They've got food and water constantly.  It's automatic.  We don't have to worry about it.  Everything's automatically ventilated, too.  We're here to care for our birds.  We want the best for them," said Steve Burrows, manager of Kuethe Turkey Farms.

These days, turkey is gaining ground on dinner tables as an alternative to other meats.

"We still get a lot of questions, you know, about how Thanksgiving is our busiest time.  It's really not anymore.  It's just a steady flow year round.  I think one thing that's really helped us is kind of the health kick.  Our biggest customers are Subway, Jimmy John's, with more of the deli sliced meats," Kuethe said.

But turkey farmers are being challenged to keep costs down.  High feed prices have forced the cost of toms to tick up.

"As long as we can keep our customers okay with us raising prices when we need to, to support those higher feed costs, the industry will survive just fine," said Kuethe.

In fact, the Iowa turkey industry continues to grow, with an estimated 11 million of the birds currently being raised here.  That's up a million from 2010.  Demand has been high for Iowa turkeys this year, partly because hundreds of toms and hens succumbed to the hot summer weather in other parts of the country.  But those who farm flocks believe the future of the business will stay strong, as more people choose to gobble up turkey.

Experts say turkey production will be able to keep climbing since a new hatchery is set to open soon in Osceola, with the capacity to set up to 50 million eggs.

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