Beyond Thanksgiving: Dakota Provisions Stays Focused on Turkey All Year
For more than a decade, a South Dakota company has been not only providing top quality turkey products to restaurants, food services and other customers, but also building a strong market opportunity for farmers in the region. Dakota Provisions was established in 2004 by a group of 44 turkey growers in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota who decided to invest in a processing facility to ensure that they would have a market for the poultry they raise and to allow them to grow their own flocks.
The plant is located in Huron, and began processing birds in 2005. Dakota Provisions currently employs about 925 people and processes about 90,000 to 100,000 turkeys each week. They produce both ready-to-eat deli meats and raw turkey products – about one million pounds of turkey each week - that are sold to restaurants, food service organizations, and retail stores.
The plant was designed with food safety as the top priority, said Jordan Woodbury, director of sales and marketing for Dakota Provisions. This focus is evident throughout Dakota Provisions - from anti-microbial surfaces throughout the facility to a complete separation between the sides of the plant where raw turkey and cooked turkey products are processed, to state- of-the art testing and quality control processes.
“We want to do everything we can to ensure that all products, especially ready-to-eat products are safe,” said Woodbury.
Employee training is also critical in Dakota Provision’s safety program, including an orientation session when new employees join the company, then regular trainings on sanitation, plant maintenance and food safety.
The company has added two retail locations where the public can buy turkey and other food items direct from Dakota Provisions. Wyshbone Market stores have opened in both Huron and Brookings and feature a number of fresh sliced meats and frozen turkey items, as well as other food items like Dimock Dairy cheese. Check the Wyshbone Market web site and Facebook pages for both the Huron and Brookings stores for current lists of inventory and pricing.
“It is exciting to see the local demand for our products and to provide an opportunity for South Dakotans to purchase items straight from our retail stores,” said Woodbury.
Plant management and staff work closely with the farmers on Hutterite colonies who own the plant and raise the turkeys to ensure that the birds are healthy and raised humanely.
“It is important to us that birds are well cared for, and we know it is important to our customers, too,” said Woodbury. He noted that the company has increased production of turkey raised without antibiotics to meet consumer demand for those items.
Dakota Provisions works with groups like Ag United to share the story of how turkeys are raised and cared for, as well as highlight ways that turkey can be enjoyed beyond the Thanksgiving holiday and deli sandwich.
“The annual poultry crawl dinners are a fun way to showcase new ways to enjoy turkey dishes and for consumers to learn more about the farmers in our state,” said Woodbury.
The plant has been a benefit for its grower-owners by giving them an opportunity to add more value to the birds they raise and to keep processing local instead of transporting birds to locations throughout the upper Midwest. The Huron location is central to most of the plant’s 43 growers, with some farms as close as seven miles away.
One of the biggest challenges that Dakota Provisions faced was the outbreak of avian influenza in 2015. Eleven Hutterite colonies in South Dakota, Minnesota and North Dakota suffered losses to bird flu, and the company saw its production drop about 12 percent. However, it was able to maintain its workforce and customers, and was back to full production by October 2015.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with the traditional turkey dinner, it is important to remember that turkeys are an important part of South Dakota’s ag economy all year long. South Dakota farmers raise a total of 5 million turkeys each year, providing an additional market for the state’s corn and soybean growers to market their crops. Enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey and check out www.southdakotapoultry.org for recipes and tips to add turkey to your table throughout the year.