In recent years, the turkey industry has experienced a steady growth in demand for turkey products by consumers. These same consumers have demanded that we care for these birds in the most humane way possible and the producers of this province share their concerns.
Turkeys are grown year round in Ontario where the total kilograms produced is approximately 63,000,000. This represents approximately 45% of all turkeys produced in Canada.
There are four different categories of turkeys. The chart below sets out the category names. The average age is the length of time it takes for a turkey to reach the average weight. Feed Conversation Ratio is the required kilograms of feed for each kilogram of weight gain.
||Avg. Age (days)
||Avg. Weight (kg)
||Feed Conversion Ratio (kg)
Most turkey producers now raise their birds in specially designed barns; the advantages to this type of housing is becoming increasingly apparent. Turkey barns allow birds to be grown in a clean protected environment where their nutritional and developmental needs are met. With ample and controllable ventilation, the farmer can provide his turkeys with cooling or warmth as required, and as such, the stress these birds would have to endure if exposed to the elements is eliminated. Barns also protect turkeys from predators and by eliminating contact with other animals and wild birds, the incidence of disease is greatly reduced. Turkey barns are designed to provide birds with ample room to move about with easy access to water and feed, natural and/or artificial light is provided, and most barns are insulated to help maintain a constant temperature. These modern barns aid turkey farmers in meeting the demand for fresh turkey products year round.
Although incidents of disease have been greatly reduced in recent years, they have not been eliminated. To help prevent the suffering and mortality caused by diseases, vaccines and antibiotics are used where appropriate, but sparingly and under strict guidelines. Preventative management is far more beneficial to the turkey than treating disease later. Producers must follow strict withdrawal times of all health products prior to marketing to prevent any traces remaining in the final product. No growth hormones are used in turkey production in Canada. In fact, they are illegal.
Ongoing research into all aspects of turkey production ensure that consumers are receiving the highest quality product in ready supply at reasonable prices. This research is also providing valuable information and understanding of turkey physiology and behavior so proper care can be given to them on the farm.
Care is taken during transportation so that each bird arrives at the processing plant in the best possible condition. Because farmers are paid on the basis of quality and condition, it is in their best interest to ensure their birds arrive in Grade ‘A’ condition. Weather conditions are taken into consideration when shipping birds. The number of birds put in each pen on a poultry truck is dictated by the outside temperature. Covers are also used to protect the birds from wind and precipitation. Drivers take care to avoid sudden movements that might harm the birds on board.
Code of Practice & Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)
All aspects of turkey handling and care is outlined in the Poultry Code of Practice. The recommendations outlined in the Code have been developed by producers, processors, government and mainstream humane societies to ensure that turkeys are raised and marketed humanely and responsibly.
In January of 1996, the members of the Canadian Turkey Marketing Agency established the Canadian Turkey Marketing Agency HACCP Design Team, with the mandate to develop a comprehensive bio-security and quality assurance program base on HACCP principles. In November 1996, the members adopted a manual, “Raising Turkeys … Producing Food”, for implementation on Canadian Turkey Farms.
The key objectives of the manual are three-fold:
- to ensure that the birds marketed by Canadian growers continue to be high quality, safe and wholesome for consumers in Canada and abroad;
- to establish an ante-mortem information reporting system which will assist growers in the continual improvement of bird quality and increased returns as a result of the feedback obtained from their buyers; and,
- ensure Canadian growers are on leading edge of production with respect to quality and food safety, and are prepared to meet the requirements of processors and up-stream sectors in food production and distribution chain as HACCP is implemented in these sectors beginning in 1997.
The recommended procedures are based on common farm sense. As important, however, it sets out our commitment as growers to the consuming public – a commitment that must be well established, clearly articulated and carried forward into the future.
For production related inquiries please contact us