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Few Oregonians gobble up locally-grown turkey

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The distinct sound of gobbling turkeys in Oregon has generally grown silent the past 20 years as a once-thriving commercial agriculture industry has left the state:

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While there are a few locally-grown birds sold to niche market consumers this year, most Oregonians will sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner featuring a turkey produced in California, Utah, or Minnesota. Jim Hermes is a poultry specialist with Oregon State University Extension. He says the state’s turkey industry pretty much went away by 1993:

HERMES:  “A few years ago, that industry did suffer a bankruptcy brought on by a number of problems. Probably the most visible problem was a recall from the plant just prior to Thanksgiving, and there was a recall of some 70-thousand birds or something, and really, the industry couldn’t recoup from that.”  :17

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Oregon, at one time, produced about two and a half million turkeys, but has now deferred to other turkey producing states that are closer to feed sources. Any chance for an industry revival in Oregon is unlikely:

HERMES:  “Certainly, there is interest by some consumers that want to buy that local product. Whether or not there is a large scale industry group that wants to move into Oregon, that’s probably not the case.”  :11

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This year, a few small-scale producers are specializing in offering organic, pasture raised, or so-called heritage turkeys. But the large scale production is a thing of the past– a rarity for a state like Oregon which boasts such a large number of commodities. In Salem, I’m Bruce Pokarney.

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HERMES says Oregon once grew 2.5 million turkeys, but times have changed, even though it is still possible to purchase a locally-grown bird:

“There is no commercial production anymore– large scale producers. We do have some small producers with a handful of birds on a relative scale, that grow birds primarily for consumers that order the, they are processed specifically for those consumers as a primarily a Thanksgiving kind of product.”  :17

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HERMES says even though Oregon consumers may want to buy local products, it is unlikely that the commercial turkey industry will return to its glory days:

“There have been some inquiries as to having some breeder flocks here in the state, which would produce hatching eggs. Normally when that occurs, there might be a few folks that will pop up that will want to grow commercial birds. Our primary problem is we don’t have a place to process. We don’t have a slaughter plant.”  :18

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