Let’s Talk Turkey: States With the Most Turkey Industry Jobs

By David Luther - Nov. 15, 2017

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turkey states

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On the 24th of November this year, 286 million Americans will sit down with their families to give thanks for the previous year’s harvest.

That is, by eating 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving according to a National Turkey Federation report.

Yes, that’s a thing.

We don’t know whom to thank for giving this uniquely American (and scrumptious) bird the dubious honor of Thanksgiving feast centerpiece. So instead, we sorted through government agriculture reports to figure out which states to thank for producing most of the country’s turkeys — and which states have turkeys to thank for creating the most jobs.

We dug through the data like it was pumpkin pie, and here’s what we found about the biggest turkey producing states in America.

A summary of the biggest turkey producers:

  • One in five turkeys produced in the US is eaten on Thanksgiving
  • The four biggest turkey producing states generate more of it than the rest of the country
  • Minnesota has the most turkey jobs (for people) with 12,520 and pays the most turkey wages (to people) at $765 million
  • Minnesota raises the most turkeys (42.5 million), but North Carolina raises the most revenue from turkey production
  • Butterball, based in North Carolina, processes the most turkeys each year (1.36 billion pounds)

A note on methodology

For this analysis, we first went to the esteemed National Turkey Federation for data on the jobs and wages paid as a direct result of turkey production.

We looked at United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) turkey forecast data to see which states raise the most turkeys.

states with the most turkey jobs

The turkey industry directly employs over 112,832 people in the United States, with even more in related industries. According to the National Turkey Federation:

Tens of thousands more are employed in related industries, such as contract growing, product distribution, equipment manufacturing and a wide variety of other affiliated services.

The winner for jobbles (job+gobble) is Minnesota, home to turkey producer Jennie-O.

turkey states

The states that pay the most turkey wages come in the same order as the ones that employ the most people, though Minnesota also pays the most per job in the top four production states.

turkey states

The top four turkey producing states raise more birds than the rest of the country combined, and the top six account for nearly two-thirds of the turkeys produced in 2017.

The largest turkey producing state is Minnesota, at 42.5 million turkeys — however, North Carolina’s 34 million turkeys generate more revenue from its Butterball headquarters.

And as you can see, that’s probably because Butterball also processes the most turkeys, about 14 percent of the turkeys eaten in America

And good news for these states: people are going to keep gobbling it up

The United States is the world’s largest turkey producer and largest exporter of turkey products, and it is second in turkey consumption only to Israel.

According to the USDA, over the last 10 years, the percentage of poultry meat consumption has grown more rapidly than red meats — and states are keeping up by consistently raising more turkeys year over year.

For the states in our rankings, that’s news worth giving thanks for.

Coming up next: a review of the cranberry industry

Just kidding.

(It’s Wisconsin, producing 60 percent of the crop.)

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David Luther

David Luther was the Content Marketing Editor for the Zippia Advice blog. He developed partnerships with external reporting agencies in addition to generating original research and reporting for the Zippia Career Advice blog. David obtained his BA from UNC Chapel Hill.

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