Industry Structure

Industry Overview

Today's consumer recognizes turkey's nutritional value and good taste and enjoys turkey year-round, not just during the holidays. In 2012 U.S. consumption of turkey is expected to be more than 16 pounds per person, and is the number four protein choice for U.S. consumers. Turkey production has increased nearly 110 percent since 1970 - the total value of turkey processors' production in 2011 reached $17.8 billion and U.S. growers raised 253.5 million turkeys in 2012.

Industry Structure

Turkey companies are vertically integrated, meaning they control or contract for all phases of production and processing - from breeding through delivery to retail. By maintaining control over research, hatching, growing, feeding, processing, packaging, transportation and marketing, the industry is able to produce wholesome, safe, high-quality products at the lowest possible cost to the consumer.

Top 10 Turkey Producing States in 2012
North Carolina
South Carolina


Top Turkey Processors, 2012*
Butterball, LLC 1,300
Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc. 1,275
Cargill Value Added Meats 1,095
Farbest Foods, Inc. 385
Hillshire Brands Co. (Sara Lee) 358
Kraft Foods, Inc./Oscar Mayer 280
Foster Farms 274
Perdue Farms, Inc. 271
House of Raeford, Inc. 253
Virginia Poultry Growers Coop. Inc. 251
West Liberty Foods, LLC 224.8
Cooper Farms 207
Dakota Provisions 206
Michigan Turkey Producers 185
Hain Pure Protein Corp. (Plainville Farms) 182
Turkey Valley Farms 150
Zacky Farms 149.9
Prestage Foods 140
Norbest, Inc. (Moroni Feed Co.) 102.8
Northern Pride Turkey 40
White Water Processing Co. 30.3
Empire Kosher 25.2

Liveweight Processed (Million Pounds)*
Estimates for 2012 from March 2013 Watt Poultry, USA


The turkey industry employs between 20,000 and 25,000 people in the United States. Tens of thousands more are employed in related industries, such as contract growing, product distribution, equipment manufacturing and a wide variety of other affiliated services.



The product distribution for turkey for 2011 follows: 47.4 percent sold to grocery stores, delis and other retail outlets; 30.0 percent sold in commodity outlets; 15.5 percent sold to foodservice outlets; and 6.2 percent exported.

The most popular turkey product continues to be the whole turkey, comprising less than a quarter of all sales. However, many turkey products are tailor-made for today's consumers who live fast-paced lifestyles and who demand products that taste great, are healthful and easy to prepare. As a result, several other turkey products are closing in on the whole bird's dominance in the marketplace. Ground turkey has experienced the largest sales growth among consumers in the last decade. The top three turkey products sold in 2011 were whole birds, ground turkey, and cooked white meat (deli meat). Raw products, especially breast cuts, such as tenderloins and cutlets, also are seeing an increase in sales. In 2011, the average retail price for whole frozen turkeys in the United States was $1.58 per pound. The average person in the United States ate 16.1 pounds of turkey in 2011.


In 2012, 800 million pounds were exported. Exports now comprise more than 13 percent of total turkey production, compared with 1.2 percent in 1990. In 2010, the top four export markets for U.S. turkey meat were Mexico (399.0 million pounds), China (82.9 million pounds), Hong Kong (37.9 million pounds) and Canada (22.7 million pounds).

Consumer Trends

Turkey consumption has nearly doubled over the past 30 years. Consumers are recognizing the health benefits of turkey as a low-fat, high-protein source, not to mention its wonderful taste and cooking versatility. The Southern tradition of deep frying turkeys has gained in popularity in the last few years. This process seals the outside while the interior remains very juicy and the skin develops a crisp texture. Grilling turkey is fast, fun and convenient with turkey tenderloins, steaks, boneless breasts and drumsticks readily available.

While the holiday whole turkey and the all-American turkey sandwich always will have a special place in consumers' hearts, Americans are enjoying an ever-widening variety of turkey products throughout the year.