September 1997


John C. Voris Extension Turkey Specialist University of California, Avian Sciences Department Kearney Agricultural Center, 9240 S. Riverbend Ave., Parlier, CA 93648

Turkey Production and Consumption

Turkey production in the United States for 1995 was 296 million. The number one production state was North Carolina with production of 63 million and Minnesota was second with production of 41.0 million. In November of 1991, one of the four large California integrators, announced they would discontinue their California operation by May 22, 1992. They did close out their feed mill, processing plant a nd left 28 turkey production facilities empty. With this change in the numbers of turkeys produced, California's national rank slipped to fourth and the number produced dropped from 29 million to 24 million for 1992 and bottomed out at 21 million in 1994. California's production was up slightly in 1995 to 21.5 million and we expect it to rise in 1996 to about 23 million. We are just beginning to come out of the slump caused by the withdrawal of one large integrator.

Table 1. Leading Turkey Production States (millions)

States  	1985	1990	1991	1993	1994	1995	1996*

North Carolina	31.9	58.0	58.0	61.0	60.0	63.0	59.5
Minnesota	30.4	46.3	44.0	42.0	41.5	41.0	43.0
Arkansas	---	22.0	24.0	25.0	24.0	25.0	27.0
Virginia	---	---	---	21.0	22.0	24.0	25.0
California	20.5	32.0	29.0	22.5	21.5	21.5	22.5
U. S. Total	185	283	285	288	290	293	301
* estimated

The 1990 national per capita consumption of turkey was 19.3 pounds. Our national consumption figures were revised downward to make poultry consumption figures more nearly match beef figures by taking the bone out of poultry. Therefore the 1990 figure is now 17.6 pounds per capita. In 1996 the per capita consumption was 18.5 pounds.

The per capita consumption in California is greater than the national average and is estimated to be about 2-3 pounds more than the national per capita consumption. We do not have a true figure for California with the complication of accounting for the turkey shipped in and out of the state. The major reason given for this difference in consumption for California over the national consumption is the greater use of the barbecue in California. Turkey consumption has been increasing steadily in recent years.

Table 2.  Per Capita Consumption of Turkey, Beef and Chicken
        	1985	1990	1993	1994	1995	1996	1997*

U. S. Turkey	11.6	17.6	18.6	18.0	18.5	18.5	18.7
Calif. Turkey* 	16.6	19.6	19.7	19.8	20.1	20.5	20.5
Beef	        67.8	66.8   	67.5    68.1	67.5    67.7    66.7
U.S. Chicken	61.5	64.0	71.5	73.0	68.8	70.8	72.3

Structure of the California Turkey Industry

The turkey industry in California is almost completely integrated. Nearly all turkeys are grown under contract with one of four large integrated companies or their subsidiaries. These large integrated companies have all or part of the following enterprises related to turkey production: Breeders, hatchery, feed mill, processing plant, further processing plant (if separate), company owned growing facilities, contract growing facilities and turkey live haul.

When the original announcement was made by a large turkey company to discontinue California production, the company promised to help as many of their producers as possible to find a new contract. They hoped the whole integrated company could be sold or transferred so that the schedule of their growers would not be interrupted. They promised to intercede for their growers and find contracts either with another turkey integrator or with major broiler integrators.

In November 1992, a year after the announcement of closure, the 24 displaced growing facilities are aligned as follows: Ten are now converted and/or converting to chickens. Six of those facilities were able to find contracts with other turkey integrators. Four of the facilities are empty, and three are contracted to a new processor. One growout facility is being converted to a breeder facility.

Geographically, the California turkey industry is divided with the bulk of the breeders both primary and multiplier located in the cooler coastal areas and the majority of the meat production located in the San Joaquin Valley. The principal counties for meat production are Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings and Tulare. Until recently meat production was moving further South with the largest concentration located South of Fresno. A new turkey processing plant and two new feed mills have been constructed in this area. The reason for the move is largely pressure from urbanization. Within the last year, the new processing plant and one of the feed mills were closed.

California has traditionally been a center for primary breeding. The largest primary breeder, Nicholas Turkey Breeding Farms, Inc. has its headquarters in Sonoma, California. A smaller primary breeder, the Orlopp Turkey Farms, Inc is located near Orosi, California. Nicholas once accounted for about 80% of the breeding stock used in the United States. They are now responsible for about 50%. The other 50% is divided between Hybrid Turkeys Inc., Ontario, Canada and British United Turkeys of America, Lewisburg, West Virginia and Orlopp Turkey Farms, Orosi, California.

Typical Meat Production Facility

Most meat production units brood and grow from 50 to 75 thousand birds three and one half times per year. Many of the larger facilities have a single brooding complex that has the capacity to brood 50 to 100 thousand poults and which serves two separate grow out facilities with the same capacity. In this scheme, the brooder facility broods seven times each year and furnishes the poults needed to fill both growing facilities three and one half times per year.

Poults are brooded with an average density of one square foot per bird. Toms are placed in grow out facilities at a density of 3 to 4 square feet per bird depending on the recommendations of the integrator. Hens receive about 2.5 square feet in their grow out facilities. Some producers allow toms to use the space vacated by the hens since they are marketed sooner than toms.

Turkeys are no longer produced seasonally. The advent of further processing and the structure of the turkey industry has changed turkey production to a year around activity. Most turkey facilities are built using borrowed money that has been loaned on this basis and therefore the producer needs to maintain his cash flow.

A typical facility will cost about $1,225,000. This facility will have two brooder houses 50 x 500 feet with a capacity of 25,000 poults each and 5 growing houses of 50 feet by 500 feet with a total capacity of 50,000 birds. To this cost you must add the land (a minimum of 20 acres), at least one residence on the property, grading, water and electricity. A typical figure for the total is about $7-8 per bird raised per year or from $1,225,000 to $1,400,000.

Almost all birds are produced on a contractual basis. The producer furnishes the land, facilities, and labor and is paid based on the weight, grade and feed conversion of the birds delivered to the processing plant. Each integrator has a different contract, but in general, the grower can expect a return of $1.25 to $1.50 per bird.

For planning purposes, mortality is usually figured at 10%. The national average livability for toms is about 87% and 92% for hens. Individual contracts take into consideration such things as house insulation, mortality, and feed conversion. The integrator owns the turkeys, supplies the feed, medicine, vaccines and a grow out supervisor that checks on the turkeys on a regular basis and decides if and when medication or vaccination is needed.

Typical Cost Figures and Feed Consumption

Cost figures are more difficult to obtain and mean less now with the advent of integration. The grower can expect to spend 20.4 percent of his cost for labor; 7.9 for energy; 11.7 for overhead, and 13.4 for taxes and insurance, and about 46.7 percent for debt service. Debt service or the cost of the loan for the facility will vary widely depending on the amount borrowed and the length of time for the loan. Typically, money borrowed from a bank or a more conventional source will be borrowed for a longer period of time. Money borrowed from an integrator will usually be for seven years or less.

The integrator's cost of feed will vary depending on ingredient cost, the distance from the mill to the ranch, the efficiency of the mill, and the type of formulation, but feed represents about 70% of the cost of turkey production.

Turkey hens marketed at 16 weeks of age will have consumed about 45.5 pounds of feed with a feed conversion (pounds of feed per pound of gain) of about 2.5. Toms marketed at 20 weeks will have consumed about 94 pounds of feed with a feed conversion of about 2.9.

Turkey Marketing

Hens are marketed between 14 and 16 weeks of age. At this age hens will typically weigh from 14.7 to 17.5 pounds. Toms are often marketed between 17 and 20 weeks of age and will weigh from 26.4 to 32.3 pounds. Market age is determined by the product being produced. Most integrators produce both whole bodied and further processed products.

About 70% of all turkeys grown are further processed. For this market, the industry prefers to grow toms, because their larger weight is advantageous. However, many hens are also further processed even though the unit cost is higher with the lighter weight. About 16% of all turkeys are processed for the whole body market. A larger proportion of hens are sold as whole body due to the preference for further processing the larger toms. About 14% of all turkeys produced are processed as parts. In the past, parts like wings and drums were often sold at greatly reduced prices. Today, these parts are used extensively in further processing and often end up as part of a further processed product such as ground meat. Today, these parts are used extensively in further processing and often end up as part of a further processed product such as ground meat.