Ethanol Blog
Cheryl Anderson DTN Staff Reporter

Thursday 11/21/13

Lower Turkey Weight Not Due to DDG Use

Butterball, the nation's largest turkey processor, said it will have plenty of very large, frozen turkeys, but will have trouble filling orders for fresh, never-frozen birds 16 pounds and over, according to an article by Mother Jones (…).

One of the reasons Butterball cites in the reason for the shortage is a decline in weight gains on some of their farms, despite the trend of turkeys getting bigger and bigger in past decades. According to the U.S. Depart of Agriculture, the average weight of a turkey at slaughter in 1965 was about 18 pounds. By 2012, the average rose to a hefty 29.9 pounds.

One reason for lower weight turkeys could be the price of corn. Joel Brandenberger, National Turkey Federation President, declared high corn prices as "the primary reason one turkey company went bankrupt in 2012 and why the industry already lost 750 jobs in the last 12 months."

The article suggests that high corn prices inspired Butterball to substitute some of the corn in its feed mix for "cheaper, lower-calorie alternatives" that possibly resulted in lowered bird growth. It is "plausible," the article continued, that Butterball's size problem stems from increased use of one of those substitutions: distillers grains.

The Mother Jones article failed to mention that DDG used in inclusion levels of less than 40% do not affect body weight and is a still a great value because it is a good source of other nutrients, such as protein and phosphorus.

A couple articles that could counter the arguments made in Mother Jones include:

-- In an article written for Ethanol Producer magazine (…), Dr. Gerald C. Shurson, professor of swine nutrition and management at the University of Minnesota, said that DDGS is used primarily as an energy source in animal feed. Shurson wrote that wet distillers grains provides 120 to 150% of the energy value of corn for beef feedlot cattle, approximately the same energy value as corn for swine, and about 85% of the energy value of corn for poultry.

But while the energy value might be slightly lower for poultry, Shurson said that protein and phosphorus are three times more concentrated in DDGS compared to corn.

"Livestock and poultry producers are getting an excellent value for the price they pay for DDGS," Shurson wrote.

-- Sally Noll, professor of poultry (turkey) science at the University of Minnesota conducted a feeding trial that examined alternative protein ingredient use in market turkey diets (…). The results indicated that performance was not negatively affected by inclusion of high levels of DDGS in starter diets, and although inclusion levels of 40% DDGS was found to decrease body weight, "higher inclusion levels of DDGS may be economical if corn supplies become limiting or too expensive for poultry feeding."

Cheryl Anderson can be reached at


Posted at 4:17PM CST 11/21/13 by Cheryl Anderson
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