Talking Turkey Truths and Transparency with Farmer John Zimmerman
Today’s consumers are bombarded with conflicting information about food production causing confusion that influences their meal selection and purchasing decisions. Today’s Turkey asked John Zimmerman, a turkey farmer in Minnesota and owner of P&J Products, to help you clear up common misperceptions and myths for your shoppers.
As a fourth-generation farmer, and second-generation turkey farmer, the turkey business is in my blood. My job is to keep the flocks healthy and safe, from the time they are one-day old “poults” until they are full grown birds.
One misconception I often hear is that “Turkeys are so big these days, there must be added hormones.” By law, poultry is never allowed added growth hormones or steroids. And, those additives are not needed, nor would they be effective. Over the past several decades, we have provided an environment where turkeys can thrive and grow. Genetic improvements, better feed formulation and modern management practices are all responsible for meatier turkeys that today’s consumers enjoy.
Our primary mission is to keep our flocks healthy for today’s consumers. We use preventative measures including probiotics and high levels of sanitation. I know, however, that there is widespread misinformation about antibiotic use. When conventionally-raised turkeys need medicine, they do so under the supervision of a veterinarian. FDA regulations control the strict use, dosage and discontinuation period to ensure the meat will be safe to eat.
Another important aspect of the flock’s health and safety is their living environment. Turkeys are raised to strut freely about in modern barns that protect the flock from outdoor predators and extreme temperatures; provide ready access to food and water; and recycle nutrients from the flooring to mix into crop soil for growing corn and soybean feed. Healthy turkeys are quite curious and love to flock together and will approach anyone who enters their space.
As responsible stewards of land, air and water, America’s turkey farmers came together to agree to the National Turkey Federation’s environmental management best practices, practicing reduced water use, recycling and efficient use of land. On my farm, for example, we recycle turkey manure as fertilizer for the corn and soybeans we grow. Those crops are then used for feed for the turkeys. This efficient nutrient cycle maximizes land use and reduces waste.
As a retail dietitian, you have ongoing opportunities to ensure that consumers are getting accurate information about the food they eat and feel confident about how we raise our turkeys.
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