November 30, 2022

Main: Growing Illinois’ soy-fed turkey industry

The Illinois Soybean Association is committed to building domestic markets, as well as international markets. We understand that using soybean meal as a feedstock for animal agriculture in Illinois is a great opportunity, as they are the No. 1 consumer of soybean meal in the state and in the nation.

In Illinois, about 79% of meal goes to hogs, with the remaining 21% going to poultry, turkey and dairy. ISA is a strong supporter of soy-fed livestock markets — and turkey is no exception.

According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, Illinois produces around 2.8 million turkeys in sales units annually.

In comparison, neighboring Midwest states Iowa, Indiana and Missouri produce around 20 million, 18 million and 19 million turkeys, respectively, on an annual basis.

Most Illinois turkey producers are contract growers for large, integrated farms in Iowa and Indiana. It’s become clear that one major barrier to success for the Illinois turkey industry is the lack of processing housed in the state, including hatcheries, feed mills and processors.

Today, ISA is diligently reaching out to connect with integrated farms to help identify additional economic areas for growth in the state. In order for more processing facilities to be established, integrated farms must recognize the value and begin to invest in developing facilities here in Illinois.

The ISA team is focusing efforts to grow turkey populations in the state through contract growing to increase production volume, which could lead to a larger need for in-state processing plants in the long term. Before there is worthwhile incentive for large investments in processing, Illinois turkey production numbers must increase.

Once more areas of economic growth in the state are identified, ISA plans to facilitate potential contract grower meetings and help connect farmers with new opportunities.

Additionally, ISA is helping to promote turkey alongside the National Turkey Federation. NTF is the national advocate for America’s turkey industry, raising awareness for its members’ products while strengthening their ability to profitably and safely deliver wholesome, high-quality and nutritious products to consumers. NTF members include growers, processors, hatchers, breeders, distributors, allied services and state associations.

This summer, ISA joined NTF to create an influential partnership to raise awareness by exploring new spaces, specifically within barbecue arenas and the halal culture. These efforts include ISA’s sponsorship of the Windy City Smokeout, Chicago’s top barbecue and country music festival.

As the No. 1 consumer of soybean meal not only in Illinois, but the entire United States, it’s important that we as soybean growers recognize the value of livestock production here in our state.

For the Illinois turkey industry specifically, we must continue to invest our time and efforts into growing turkey production through economic development and by promoting awareness to put more soy-fed products on our plates.

Todd Main is the Illinois Soybean Association director of market development.