COVID-19 left some parts of Minnesota’s poultry community relatively unscathed, while others are recovering from a roller-coaster ride that shook the markets earlier in the pandemic.
That makes the time ripe for poultry growers to work with communities and business and explore new ways to get their products into the hands of consumers, according to University of Minnesota Extension researchers in a new analysis of the poultry industry’s impact on Minnesota, its challenges and opportunities.
The numbers are dramatic. In Minnesota, farmers produce about 40 million turkeys and 63.9 million broiler chickens, and laying hens produce 3.2 billion eggs. There are 4,175 poultry and egg farms in Minnesota that sell products. 45 percent of all poultry and egg farms are small operations with fewer than 50 laying hens, often in backyards.
At the other end of the spectrum, Minnesota is the No. 1 producer of turkey in the nation, with about 600 farms raising birds. Of that number, about half are independent and the half are owned and operated in partnership with major processors. The average turkey farm supports six jobs in Minnesota.
“As we analyzed the numbers, we found that the average turkey farm in Minnesota generates $2.3 million in economic activity,” said Extension senior economic impact analyst Brigid Tuck, who completed the analysis with colleagues Megan Roberts, an Extension educator, and Joleen Hadrich, Extension ag economist. Kandiyohi, Stearns and Morrison counties lead the state in turkey production.
The Extension report highlighted the vulnerabilities of poultry to swings created by COVID-19. Prices for eggs sold in retail settings, for instance, quadrupled at one point at the start of the pandemic.
On the other hand, prices for eggs processed for food service plummeted before moderating in late spring. Fryer chickens went from 90 cents a pound at the start of the year to 50 cents before stabilizing at 70 cents per pound.
Since retail turkey demand increases later in the year, and closer to Thanksgiving, growers escaped much of the volatility their poultry-growing peers experienced.
“Seasonal purchasing is a major factor in poultry,” Tuck said, noting that turkey will not be purchased for many summer events and fairs this year. “This is a time that calls for creativity and collaboration in finding new pathways to local consumers and markets.”
Read the full report: COVID‐19 Response: The Role of Poultry Farmers in Minnesota’s Rural Economy