~ Press release issued by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation
HARRISONBURG — It’s prime time for turkey, and Virginia farmers have been hard at work raising birds for Thanksgiving and other meals.
Virginia turkey production is ranked sixth in the U.S., according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. In 2021, the state’s turkey growers are expected to raise 14.5 million birds. This is down 9 percent from the 16 million raised in 2020, NASS reported in September. Nationally, NASS forecast the number of turkeys raised in 2021 will be down 4 percent from 2020.
“Virginia has not diminished as an important turkey-producing state,” said Hobey Bauhan, president of the Virginia Poultry Federation. He noted that the number of birds raised in Virginia fluctuates from year to year, but the state remains among the top 10 turkey-producing states.
He blamed supply chain issues and workforce challenges for the drop in turkey production this year. Since supplies may be tight this Thanksgiving season, Bauhan recommends that consumers plan ahead.
“Virginia is cranking out fresh turkeys, and they will be on shelves in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving,” he noted. “And you can buy a frozen turkey now. They are frozen fresh, so they’re just as good as fresh.”
The Virginia poultry industry, which includes chickens, eggs and turkeys, employs almost 19,000 people and generates an additional 34,835 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries. According to the VPF, there are more than 275 turkey farms in Virginia. Many can be found in the Shenandoah Valley and the northern Piedmont.
The 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture indicated the top two turkey-producing counties were Rockingham with 112 turkey farms and Augusta with 58. Bauhan called Rockingham County the “poultry capitol of Virginia.”
Craig Miller and his wife, Nancy, have been raising turkeys on Miller Farms LLC in Rockingham County since 1986. They manage three flocks of 66,000 birds each year for Cargill and raised the 2012 presidential turkey.
Miller, who is a member of Rockingham County Farm Bureau, said the average American eats 16 pounds of turkey each year. His birds yield about 2.2 million pounds of meat each year, “so our farm alone can feed over 140,000 people.”
He added that he’s proud of the way family farms grow commercial turkeys. “They are raised in warm, climate-controlled environments that are clean and humane.”
Turkeys are raised year-round, but demand increases around the holidays. Many Virginia-raised birds are sold in Virginia and others are transported across the country and overseas.
“For the most part, turkey is sold 24-7, 365 days a year,” Miller noted.