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Thankful for Iowa’s turkey farmers

Iowa turkey farmer Mark Herrig
This Thanksgiving, as my grandmother-in-law serves the traditional Thanksgiving turkey and chicken-filled raviolis (she’s Italian), I’ll pause an extra minute to think about the farmers who grow the food for our meal.

I’ll especially think about the turkey and chicken growers I visited with as they battled avian influenza this year. I know they made difficult choices and worked hard to be back into business, raising safe, healthy turkeys we enjoy. Thankfully, most of Iowa’s growers are back in business.

I know Mark and Terry Herrig are thankful, too. They were forced to depopulate their 43,000 turkeys after the disease was confirmed on their farm near Albert City in late April. They spent the entire summer cleaning and disinfecting their barns, composting birds that had to be euthanized, and trying to piece their farm back together. They did all of this because they believe in raising healthy turkeys that provide safe food for us to enjoy.

Finally, in September, a flock of baby turkeys, or poults, arrived at their farm and they were back into turkey production.

The Herrig family is slowly starting to rebuild their turkey flock to full capacity. They want to continue to raise healthy birds, which will eventually be used in deli meat for restaurants like Jimmy John’s and Subway.

This Thanksgiving, around the family’s dinner table, the Herrigs said they will be counting their blessings.

“We have a lot to be thankful for,” Terry said. “We’re thankful to be back in business. Things are going good again.” The Herrigs’ story is just one of several among turkey growers here in Iowa and in other states like Minnesota and Missouri, which raise the turkeys that will be a part of our Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m grateful for all farmers, but this year, I’m especially thankful for the hard-working men and women who work hard to raise healthy, safe turkeys. Now, please pass the turkey.

By Bethany Baratta. Bethany is Iowa Farm Bureau's Commodities Writer.