Where does turkey come from?

The United States of America is by far the world's leading producer and consumer of turkey meat (although, on a per-capita basis, we're beat out by several other nations). In 2014, Americans will eat about 5 billion pounds of turkey and turkey farms will produce over 200 million birds for consumption both in the United States and around the world. So where does all that turkey come from?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic's QCEW program, there are 317 business establishments involved in the production of turkey in the United States. They employ nearly 5,000 individuals in 26 states. If you map out the location of all those turkey farms, you get something that looks a little like this:

As the map above suggests, US turkey production is dominated by just a small handful of states. In fact, Minnesota, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Indiana account for about 50% of all US turkey production. And it should come as no surprise - states with the highest production are also home to some of America's biggest turkey-producing companies. In Minnesota, it's Jennie-O. In North Carolina, Butterball. These top-producing states churn out millions of live birds every year.

And, if you're more of a table person...

State Turkeys Produced
Minnesota 45,000,000
Arkansas 29,000,000
North Carolina 28,000,000
Indiana 19,000,000
Missouri 16,000,000
Virginia 16,000,000
South Carolina 12,000,000
California 11,000,000
Iowa 11,000,000
Pennsylvania 7,000,000
Ohio 6,000,000
Utah 4,400,000
South Dakota 4,300,000
West Virginia 3,100,000
Other 35,200,000
Source: USDA

So, there you have it. That's where turkey comes from. (At least in the United States, anyway.)

If all that sounds really exciting to you, you might want to think carefully before pursuing a job in turkey farming. Average annual wages in the turkey production industry are only $34,000 - and that average includes the salaries of high-level management. Unless you own an industrialized turkey farm, you're probably not going to do too well...

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