NTF Executive Testifies on Advances in Turkey Health and Wellbeing Before House Agriculture Committee

October 24, 2012
Washington, D.C.

Sherrie Rosenblatt, National Turkey Federation
202-898-0100 ext. 7227, srosenblatt@turkeyfed.org

A National Turkey Federation official today told a House subcommittee that advances in turkey production techniques have allowed the industry to produce a larger supply of safe wholesome products at a lower cost to consumers.

“Maintaining the health and well being of the turkey flocks is paramount,” Dr. Michael Rybolt, NTF director of scientific and regulatory affairs, said in testimony before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry. “The industry accomplishes this through a variety of means, including raising the birds in environmentally controlled houses, increased biosecurity on farms, various animal health monitoring programs, the use of vaccination programs, and using approved animal drugs.”

Rybolt told the subcommittee members that advances in turkey production in the last 30 years has been driven by science and have resulted in clear improvements in efficiency. In 2007, more than 260 million turkeys were raised with an average liveweight per bird of 28 pounds with nearly 6 billion pounds of turkey processed. By contrast, in 1970, only 105 million birds were raised with an average liveweight of 17 pounds and 1.5 billion pounds processed.

Rybolt explained that one of the most significant advances in the turkey industry has been the use of environmentally controlled houses. Research has shown that raising turkeys indoors also creates a less stressful environment for the birds leading to better production. He also told the agriculture committee that biosecurity practices, such as limiting access to only authorized personnel and ensuring proper sanitation, have helped to diminish the exposure of flocks to potential disease.

Also contributing to better production are the advances in animal disease monitoring. The use of these programs has allowed the industry to monitor for various diseases and to control and eradicate them before they spread, thereby allowing for increased livability and more food for human consumption.

Rybolt explained that antibiotics are sometimes used to control bacterial diseases. Use of antimicrobials for disease control, prevention and treatment is necessary for the health and welfare of the turkey flocks.

Rybolt went on to tell the agriculture committee that these production tools have allowed the turkey industry to make significant improvements in turkey health over the past decades, which have resulted in an efficient increase in production. Rybolt said, “Without these tools, the industry would not be in a position to supply nearly 6 billion pounds of safe, wholesome, nutritious turkey products for human consumption. If the industry was not able to maintain its current status, there would without a doubt be decreases in production and an increase in production cost, which would inevitably be passed on to the consumer.”

In conclusion, Rybolt said, “The number one goal of the U.S. turkey industry is to provide safe, wholesome, nutritious, quality products at an affordable cost to the consumer.”

About the National Turkey Federation
The National Turkey Federation (NTF) is the national advocate for all segments of the $8 billion turkey industry, providing services and conducting activities that increase demand for its members' products by protecting and enhancing their ability to profitably provide wholesome, high-quality, nutritious products. Its award-winning web site, EatTurkey.com, offers consumers, food professionals and the media an extensive library of information including healthy eating and restaurant trends, turkey cuts and purchasing tips, turkey nutrition and cooking techniques, and turkey facts and trivia. Additionally, the site presents a searchable database of more than 1,800 recipes, offers a recipe E-mail program and provides special seasonal and holiday ideas. The National Turkey Federation is headquartered in Washington, D.C.