The turkey industry is poised to reap further benefits from National Turkey Federation’s member-driven project, 20 by 2020. During 2016, supply levels are returning to normal after the disruptions in 2015 caused by the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

With business fundamentals appearing favorable, the there is even more opportunity to increase demand for turkey meat. That demand starts with a morning breakfast of turkey sausage or turkey bacon, continues at the lunch deli counter with sliced turkey breast and caps the evening meal choice with new varieties that range from lean ground turkey meat for burgers, turkey meatballs or turkey tacos to the special tender flavor of turkey tenderloin or juicy dark, meaty turkey drumsticks. The rich flavor of dark meat is especially valued in soup and stew recipes. While turkey remains at the center of the family table at Thanksgiving, NTF is focused on the year-round enjoyment of the varied portions from whole turkey for an appeal that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. 

Entering into its third year in 2017, the 20 by 2020 plan, spearheaded by Gary Cooper during his 2014 chairmanship of NTF, has rallied volunteer support within the circles of the turkey business with his goal to profitably increase the per capita consumption of turkey meat. Voluntary funding of the 20 by 2020 project comes from independent brands, private labels, state grower associations and the name brands familiar to generations. Beyond the growers and processors of turkey, additional volunteer funding comes from the wide range of companies whose business depends on equipping the mechanized preparation, packaging and the everyday supplies critical to preparing turkeys for market.

That funding support is energized by the direct involvement of those suppliers and grower/processors. They all work together at regular strategy meetings, guiding activities to put more turkey on the menu and in the meat case. The allied suppliers to the industry readily understand: More products, more production means more supplies sold to the companies in the business of producing turkey meat.

More turkey on the menu and in the meat case for the consumer comes available through the influence of restaurant chefs and supermarket registered dietitians. Engaging chefs and registered dietitians at professional seminars, these influencers are keen to discover flavorful, lean and healthy food options to recommend for dinner menus and home cooking. Turkey is a natural, high-quality, lean protein with half the saturated fat of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Turkey absorbs the flavors of complementary pairings of spices, marinades and popular taste additions such as mushrooms, sweet onion and avocado.  A three-ounce portion of turkey breast contains just 72 calories — the leanest among poultry.

At invitation-only sessions, chefs and dietitians discuss with a farmer the benefit of turkeys’ healthy diet of feed corn and soybeans and the benefits to freely strut about on the straw-covered floors within barns, protected from extreme weather and predators. The food professionals also connect with turkey at these events as top foodservice trend experts share insights on unexpected preparations and flavorful pairings. They also experience unique awareness from guest chefs’ cooking demonstrations and sample the latest innovations in turkey dishes from moist smoked dark meat made into Turkey Bolognese. As a result of just the first of these three unique gatherings, a collection of five fast-casual restaurant chains and meal-delivery services have added turkey to their menu, while three chain restaurants and consumer packaged goods companies are actively seeking to add turkey to their lineups.

NTF representatives conduct initial prospecting for our members in conversations on the sidelines with corporate-level food menu decision makers where we have served turkey migas for breakfasts or featured turkey filet mignon. At the most recent of these gatherings, our showcase turkey dishes brought out the versatility options for two top-growing, quick-serve restaurants interested in ground turkey in their toppings and for turkey meatballs.

Modern outreach is also employing social media channels NTF developed for the 20 by 2020 project. The Web site and its Facebook and Twitter platforms have drawn 4.1 million visitors to view innovative turkey recipes, while over a half-million of those visitors have shared our nutrition information and specialty resources for chefs and dietitians. We’ve enlisted the interest of two dozen professional bloggers whose specialty insights on food and nutrition sparked social-media engagement of another 4.5 million readers across high-traffic Web sites, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram and Pinterest.

We’ve also talked turkey in broader channels.  Our state turkey associations have made turkey meat a craving sensation at the hugely popular state fairs in Ohio, Iowa and Minnesota. Brand-name turkey companies have linked their advertising campaigns to the 20 by 2020 project flavor and health halo benefits valued by consumers. A supermarket retail dietitian featured frozen turkey breast as her June Dietitian’s Pick. It created a 1,850 percent lift for the supermarket’s stores in same week sales over 2015. 

NTF members promoted the 27th year of June is Turkey Lovers Month, while the third Sunday in June was inaugurated as National Turkey Lovers Day amid the summer traditions of grilling and aligning with Father’s Day, gaining exposure to a quarter-million people in trade and media placements. Professional chefs from the renowned Culinary Institute of America drew more than 360,000 views within its sphere of influence when it featured 10 turkey specialty dishes.  Five top retail grocery chains are featuring our quick tip videos on turkey recipes on their websites. We joined with charity groups to serve 800 innovative turkey dishes from food trucks at hospitals in Nashville and Minneapolis. Turkey has also found new partners with complementary flavors from Vidalia onions and fresh mushrooms. We’ve also paired with Kenwood Vineyards and Weber Grill with in-store coupon offers for ground turkey on pizza and in turkey chili as well as rotisserie turkey for the holidays.

Production and promotion are key factors in the state of the turkey industry to increase demand that is profitable. What’s in store for 2017? The opportunities have become as versatile as turkey’s many offerings in dark and white meat portions finding their way into meals year-round and around-the-clock.  NP

State of the Industry 2016 segments

Industry overview Goes live Oct. 14
Beef (CAB) Oct. 18
Beef (NCBA) Oct. 19
Pork (Pork Board) Oct. 20
Pork (Sun Trust) Oct. 21
Chicken Oct. 24
Turkey Oct. 25
Veal Oct. 26
Lamb Oct. 27
Food Safety Oct. 28
Packaging Oct. 31