Something to Gobble About

Turkey counters its image as a food reserved for Thanksgiving dinner and deli sandwiches with consumer-friendly new products.
One of the turkey industry’s greatest, most enduring challenges is to increase consumer demand and broaden consumption beyond holiday meals and deli sandwiches. Essential to this effort is the development of convenient, consumer-friendly retail products.
“You are seeing more and more convenient turkey products in the meat case,” notes Sherrie Rosenblatt, senior director of marketing and communications for the National Turkey Federation (NTF). “These products are packaged in a form that makes it easier for the consumer to get dinner on the table.”
Category leader Jennie-O Turkey Store, a Willmar, MN-based subsidiary of Hormel Foods, in 2004 notably introduced its Oven Ready line of fresh-frozen turkey that goes directly from the freezer to the oven without requiring thawing, cleaning, or seasoning. Available in either whole or half-bird sizes, Oven Ready products are packaged in FOOL-PROOF™ cooking bags, the neck and giblets already have been removed, and the turkey is pre-seasoned in either Home Style or Butter, Garlic and Herb varieties.
Annual Turkey Forecasts
  2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Production (millions lb.)5,5625,7135,6505,4545,4525,535
Per capita consumption (retail lb.)*17.5 17.7 17.4 17.1 16.5 16.3
Exports (millions lb.)487439484443516525
*Per capita meat consumption data are revised, incorporating a new population series from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis based on the 2000 Census.
Source: World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates and Supporting Materials
Published in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/ldp/
Consumers must only pre-heat their ovens, remove the Oven Ready turkey from its outer package (leaving it in its cooking bag) and place it in a roasting pan. A built-in pop-up timer indicates that the turkey is done.  
Competition heats up
Jennie-O is not alone in its efforts to drive additional convenience into the turkey category. Among others, Mt. Olive, NC-based Carolina Turkeys, a joint venture between Smithfield Foods and family-owned Goldsboro Milling Company, offers precooked turkey meatballs, turkey mignons in bacon wrapped, roasted garlic, and barbecue varieties, and Roast-In-Its-Own-Bag turkey breasts.
Omaha, NE-based ConAgra Foods’ Butterball brand, meanwhile, offers such varieties as fully-cooked whole turkey, frozen stuffed turkey and bone-in breast, fresh turkey cuts such as filets and tenderloins, ground turkey, and fresh and frozen lean turkey burgers.
Butterball most recently introduced Oven Roasted Turkey Strips, tender cuts of premium, fully-cooked, and ready-to-serve turkey. Also available in a number of chicken varieties, the strips are delivered in a “freshness container” that ensures that they stay fresh and is also dishwasher safe for use another day. The strips are recommended to serve over a green salad or to complement pasta, wraps, or fajita meals.
Encouraging the foodservice’s efforts to bring more turkey to the table, NTF this year launched a new interactive series called “Turkey Trendsetters” that highlights exceptional foodservice operators who exemplify leadership and creativity with turkey on their menus. Trendsetters provide insight from preparation techniques to turkey’s success as a vital ingredient. They also offer skills and knowledge on nutrition, food costs, flavor profiles, and recipes of featured menu items.
“This initiative showcases the multi-talents of foodservice operators across the country and their top-notch turkey recommendations,” explains Rosenblatt, adding that every three months a new “Turkey Trendsetter” is announced and viewed on EatTurkey.com, NTF’s Web site.
New foodservice operator research reveals that 57 percent of the foodservice operators include turkey on their menu, and more than one-third of the operators who aren't serving turkey plan to include it within the year. “The turkey industry continues to provide turkey products, such as fully-cooked turkey breasts and deli products to make it easier for restaurants to provide healthy, tasty menu options for their customers,” adds Rosenblatt. NP