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Consumers will gobble up many Virginia turkeys this Thanksgiving

Consumers will gobble up many Virginia turkeys this Thanksgiving.

The number of turkeys raised in Virginia this year is expected to total 17 million, according to the Virginia office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The finding is from a Sept. 1 survey conducted in major turkey-producing states.

Between 2006 and 2015, Virginia turkey production averaged 16.8 million birds annually. Production is down slightly this year compared to 2016, when it was 17.2 million.

Total U.S. turkey production is forecast at 245 million birds, slightly more than last year. Virginia and five other states account for nearly two-thirds of the turkeys produced nationwide. Those states are Minnesota (42.5 million); North Carolina (34 million); Arkansas (26.5 million); Indiana (19.8 million turkeys); and Missouri (19.3 million turkeys).

“Virginia has a long and proud history of turkey production,” noted Tony Banks, commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “We’ve always been a major turkey-producing state, even ranking fourth nationwide before turkey production expanded in other states. Consumers here can expect access to fresh, locally raised turkeys for the holidays.”

Banks said U.S. turkey production “has been on the rebound since 2015, when the last highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in Western and Midwestern states ended. Higher wholesale turkey prices and lower feed prices fueled that rebound. Wholesale prices are already declining in response to higher turkey production, so poultry processing companies in some states like Virginia may already be curbing production in anticipation of even lower meat prices in 2018.”

Not all U.S.-grown turkeys end up on holiday tables. The birds are raised and processed year-round, and turkey exports are up 10 percent this year, with increased demand seen in Mexico and Canada, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Mexico, an Oct. 5 AFBF report notes, “handily buys more than 50 percent of U.S. annual turkey exports.”

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