Poultry Farms

Poultry by the numbers

  • Egg producing chickens: 3 million
  • Annual turkey production: 5 million
  • South Dakota national rank in goose production: 1st
  • Economic impact of poultry industry: $300 million

From laying hens to turkeys and geese, South Dakota's poultry producers work to deliver a nutritious and safe food supply while providing top-notch care to the birds on their farms.

South Dakota turkeys consume an average of 51,000 tons of soybean meal each year, while other poultry consume 18,000 tons. Across the country, broilers and turkeys consume about 44 percent of all the soybeans used by livestock in the United States. Layers consume an additional 7 percent.

Today's poultry and egg farms provide birds with cleaner, climate-controlled environments that protect them from weather extremes. In addition, the poultry industry's strict biosecurity practices protect birds from contact with other wild birds that may be infected with diseases such as avian influenza. Cages in egg farms allow for immediate removal of litter and prevent exposure to parasites. Research has shown that eggs from modern cage systems have lower shell bacteria than eggs from cage-free or free range production.

Each of the roughly 280 million laying birds in the U.S. produces from 250 to 300 eggs a year. In total, the U.S. produces about 75 billion eggs a year, about 10% of the world supply. Each American consumes about 250 eggs per year.

U.S. egg farmers produce the safest and highest quality eggs in the world. Under authority of Federal law, USDA inspects egg-packing plants to determine that only eggs meeting Federal standards are sold to consumers. In addition to USDA and FDA regulations, all states administer their own state egg laws, which also provide for routine inspections of egg farms.

Dakota Provisions, a turkey processing facility near Huron, processes 200 million pounds of turkey annually, produces 60 million pounds of ready-to-eat turkey meat and employs 715 people.

A male turkey is called a tom, and a female turkey is a hen. Turkey hens begin laying eggs at about seven to eight months of age; it takes about 28 days for a turkey egg to hatch. The National Turkey Federation estimates that 45 million turkeys are eaten at Thanksgiving, 22 million at Christmas, and 19 million at Easter.

There are few antibiotics permitted to be used for egg laying chickens. When used, they are used on a limited basis, generally for therapeutic reasons. Any antibiotic use in egg laying chickens is subject to specific withdrawal periods prior to the marketing of eggs.

Poultry litter is a valuable, low-cost fertilizer that helps local farmers remain profitable. Farmers are required to apply litter (nutrients) according to strict nutrient management plans.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture, National Ag Statistics Service and the University of Deleware and the University of Maryland 2007 research