Where in America Did Your Thanksgiving Turkey Come From?

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Recent federal statistics show that an estimated 235 million turkeys are produced in the U.S. for 2014 -- down 2 percent from last year and far down from the 1996 peak of 303 million. Turkey farming thrives in many states, but mostly in the upper Midwest, where feed supplies are large, as Mark Jekanowski, chief of the crops branch in the Economic Research Center of U.S. Department of Agriculture told Smithsonian. Here are the top four locations where your gobbler may come from this year.


Minnesota, with a multi-generation tradition of turkey farming, is producing 45 million turkeys in 2014, making it the No. 1 state. It touts the highest number of independent turkey farmers in the country -- 450, which operate 600 farms. Ninety percent of the state's turkeys will go outside the state, with 15 percent of those going overseas. Kandiyohi County, in the south-central part of the state, is home to the world's largest turkey processor/marketer (Jennie-O Turkey Store) and poultry hatching company (Willmar Poultry). Kandiyohi is the fourth-largest county in the country for turkey production and processing.


Arkansas moves up from third place in 2013 to second this year with 29 million turkeys, up 4 percent. In 2011, a third of America's Thanksgiving turkeys were processed at Butterball plants in Ozark, Arkansas, and nearby.

North Carolina

Turkey production fell 18 percent this year in North Carolina, to 28 million. The drop could raise concerns, as the $12.8 billion poultry industry makes up 40 percent of the state's farm income and creates more than 110,000 jobs. Most turkeys come from Anson, Duplin, Lenoir, Sampson, Union and Wayne counties.


With an estimated 19 million turkeys produced in 2014, up 9 percent, Indiana took the fourth spot from Missouri and Virginia (16 million each). Daviess and Dubois counties in southern Indiana dominate production. Dubois is home to the Farbest Foods headquarters, original processing plant and related facilities. Farbest ships a million pounds of fresh, frozen and raw turkey to processors each day.
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