Feed Bites

What Do Turkeys Gobble Down?

Written by: Lacie Dotterweich   |   November 26, 2019

Turkey, Ingredients, Holidays, Animal nutrition

Before we sit down to give thanks and fill our plates, let’s take a look at the dinner table. We all know what we like to eat for Thanksgiving (turkey of course!), but what are the turkeys eating? The feed industry plays a very important role in ensuring turkeys (and down the line, you!) are fed safe and nutritious food.

This Thanksgiving, Americans will consume roughly 45 million turkeys! With the average 20 pound turkey requiring about 47 pounds of feed over its lifetime, that equates to the feed industry producing roughly 2 billion pounds of feed. Without our hard-working members, these birds wouldn’t have made it to your family Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving.

So, what do turkeys eat anyway? A turkey’s nutritional requirements change several times over the course of its life. Young turkeys, or poults, have different needs than fully grown turkeys. Turkey nutritionists formulate diets to match its stages of growth and then monitor which feed to give at what time, to ensure the appropriate amount of protein, energy, fiber and essential vitamins and minerals are included. Gender of the birds also must be taken into consideration – male turkeys, known as Toms, need more protein than females do.

At any stage – turkeys need a high protein diet, which typically consists of corn and soybean meal. Why? Turkeys are fast-growing and very efficient at converting grains into the lean, low-fat, protein-rich, high quality meat that humans and pets love. In addition, turkeys commonly eat grain sorghum, canola meal, distillers grains and fat and protein products as well as a vitamin and mineral supplement.

Now we know what turkeys eat, but where are they eating? Where do they come from? Your Thanksgiving turkey is probably coming from Minnesota, North Carolina or Arkansas – which are the top three states in turkey production. The farmers in these states have been raising their turkeys with love and care in preparation for your gathering.

So this week, give a special thanks to the feed ingredient, equipment and feed manufacturers, and even more importantly the farmers who raised the turkeys, who helped make your dinner centerpiece possible. Happy Thanksgiving!

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