How does the turkey industry score in product develop-
ment and marketing versus the pork and beef industries?
Turkey performs well, say managers with experience in
all three industries, but there’s room for improvement.
“How would you grade the turkey industry in new prod-
uct development over the last five years versus the other
meat proteins?” managers were asked at the National
Turkey Federation convention.
Butterball CEO Rod Brenneman, who was formerly CEO
of Seaboard Corporation, a major hog producer-pork
processor, said the turkey industry has done a great job
in product innovation, but can do a better job of telling
consumers about those products.
“I think the turkey products are way better than what
have been developed in the pork industry, but we can
do a better job of telling consumers about those prod-
ucts,” he said. “We have the right communication tools
Turkey’s new products better than beef and pork,
but not perfect
available but could do a better job in delivering the
messaging. It gets back to how to deliver our messag-
ing about the health aspects and the cost competitive-
ness of turkey products.”
Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill Value Added
Meats, said the turkey industry’s product development
has been technically superior but sometimes falls short
“Compared to the beef products introduced at Cargill,
we have done much more in adding value in turkey
products and coming out with innovative products. But
we have had more failures than we should have had. I
think we could have done a better job in supporting the
products and understanding what we were doing when
products were launched. Did we really understand the
consumer and how it was going to work? How they
want it packaged?”
slaughter before then (potentially 2013 depending on
the corn crop and prices) as the industry has to retain
heifers for breeding, pulling them from the slaughter
Meantime, the price of beef is expected to con-
tinue to climb. He presented price projections for
heavy choice boxed beef rising to just under $200 per
cwt in 2013, and peaking near $206 per cwt in 2014
before settling at around $200 in 2015. By compari-
son, prices ranged between $140 and $153 per cwt
price between 2008 and 2009. Since 2010, prices have
Beef less frequent in meal rotations
“The high beef prices are a real opportunity for turkey,
particularly for ground turkey,” Willardsen said. “We
think consumers will begin evaluating the rotation of
meats in their meals. Where beef may have fit in the meal
rotation twice per week at lower prices, it might now be
there only once a week.
What’s next in value addition for turkey?
Today’s product mix in the turkey business makes such
a move more feasible than once would have been the case.
“Twenty years ago, breast meat was the product focus
in the turkey business but no longer. The industry now is
rooted in dark meat, sausages, meat balls and other successful products,” observed panel member Russ Whitman
of Urner Barry.
While for now the turkey industry may be capturing additional share in commodity ground meat, the advantage there