Chicken and turkey are on track to overtake pork as the world’s most consumed meat by 2020, and in the U.S., chicken consumption per capita has increased every year since the 1960s. The National Chicken Council estimates that in 2017, Americans will consume more than 100 pounds of chicken and turkey for each person, surpassing red meat. All of this is welcomed news for North Carolina’s poultry industry.
A Bird in the Hand
As North Carolina’s leading agricultural industry, poultry production contributes more than $34.4 billion to the state’s economy and creates more than 100,000 jobs. Home to poultry powerhouse Butterball, North Carolina ranks second in the nation for total turkey production. Headquartered in Garner, Butterball is the largest producer of turkey products in the country, producing more than 1 billion pounds of turkey each year.
“Demand for turkey is certainly on the rise,” says Kyle Lock, senior director of retail marketing at Butterball. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture shows total U.S.
per capita consumption of turkey increasing from 16 pounds per household in 2015 to a projected 16.8 pounds per household in 2017.”
He adds, “Consumers love turkey as it is naturally healthful, versatile and delicious. Turkey has always been a go-to choice for holidays, such as Thanksgiving, and for lunchtime sandwiches. But today’s consumer has more choices than ever, including turkey bacon, turkey burgers, turkey smoked sausage and fresh ground turkey.”
Lock says while Butterball is ubiquitous in the U.S., a growing demand for turkey outside the country is helping the company expand its markets.
“We have opportunities to share our products with international markets. We continue to expand our footprint outside the U.S., marketing products from Puerto Rico and Mexico to countries overseas,” he says.
“We also have a division designed specifically to market Butterball’s products in nontraditional retailers. This includes convenience stores, drug stores and direct-to-consumer customers, like those on Amazon, to give consumers even greater access to our turkey products.”
Leading the Flock
Butterball has strong roots in North Carolina, which has proved to be a good place for the company to do business.
“North Carolina offers several advantages to the poultry industry, including a knowledgeable workforce, a variety of farmers who provide quality corn, wheat and soybeans, and a growing group of exceptional turkey growers to help Butterball meet consumer needs,” says Walter Pelletier, president of Maxwell Farms, an owner of Butterball LLC. “North Carolina also offers a reasonably mild climate which is conducive to growing turkeys.”
Delaware-based Mountaire Farms has also benefited from a North Carolina presence. The agricultural food processing company contracts with broiler producers in more than two dozen North Carolina counties. Mountaire’s processing facility in Lumber Bridge is the largest broiler-processing plant in the country. In 2016, the company expanded operations in the state when it acquired the former Townsend Processing Plant in Siler City, with plans to renovate it into a state-of-the-art processing facility. The expansion is expected to create more than 500 new jobs in the region.
“Mountaire Farms has a long tradition of producing high-quality poultry products for our domestic and international customers.
The increasing demand for our products requires us to expand our production, and we believe North Carolina is the perfect place for that growth,” says Paul Downes, president and CEO of Mountaire Farms. “Mountaire has a deep- rooted commitment to quality, service and value, and we look forward to growing our business in North Carolina and strengthening ties we have with the local communities.”