While most Iowans are talking turkey on this holiday, not everyone knows Iowa’s a growing contender to become one of the nation’s top turkey-processing states. Gretta Irwin, executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation, says the state has three plants, in Storm Lake, West Liberty and Postville, that process all kinds of turkey products — from turkey sausage to deli meats to turkey-bacon. Irwin says Iowa raises about eight-MILLION turkeys a year, ranking the state number-nine in the U-S, but Iowa ranks fifth in the nation in turkey processing. She says Iowa imports turkeys from several surrounding states, processing between 15-and-16-MILLION every year. Irwin says there’s a turkey farm in virtually every Iowa county. There are about 100 turkey farms in the state, each producing an average of about 50-thousand turkeys a year. Most are still family-run and many are third-generation turkey farms. Irwin says the economic impact of the turkey industry, between production and processing, adds about 128-million dollars to the state’s economy every year. Gretta Irwin, executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation, says more whole turkeys are gobbled up during November and December than the other ten months of the year combined, but since people don’t buy the birds whole for cooking in other seasons, she says the industry’s major sales come through other further processed products, like deli meats, turkey bacon, turkey sausage, turkey burgers and other convenience items that make up the mass majority of the consumption. Irwin says Sara Lee Foods and West Liberty Foods will never process a whole turkey because they produce products that go into the further-processed line for other value-added products — from turkey bacon to deli meats. Irwin says Iowans are getting more creative in how they cook their whole turkeys for the holiday table, like an unusual combination known at the turduckin (tur-DUCK-in). That involves boning a chicken, putting it inside a boned-out duck, then placing both inside a turkey and baking all three together. She says consumers are also doing more turkey smoking and deep-fat frying of turkeys or using peanut oil to cook them. For more tips on turkey cooking, surf to “www.eatturkey.com”.
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