MU professor wants to put turkeys on a cost-cutting diet

A University of Missouri professor has come up with a bargain diet for turkeys that could translate into consumers paying less to put the bird on the Thanksgiving table in the future.

The cost of turkey chow has escalated in recent years, making turkey more expensive at the grocery store. According to research at MU, “satisfying turkeys’ hunger accounts for 70 percent of the cost of producing turkey meat.”

Price increases of almost 8 percent since 2009 have resulted in more holiday hams and rotisserie chickens at Thanksgiving.

But that could change with the availability of a less expensive turkey feed developed by MU professor of agriculture Jeff Firman.

He said the new feed, called Missouri Ideal Turkey Diet, has the same nutritional qualities as the typical pellet feed. But Firman’s mixture costs $13 to $25 per ton less, nearly a 10 percent reduction. Such a reduction could save the turkey industry more than $100 million, Firman said.

“High feed costs pose long-term problems to the industry and make it difficult to maintain a competitive edge against other sources of protein, such as pork and chicken,” Firman said in a release.

Feed is typically made with corn and soybeans, both of which have gone up a third or more in price recently, pushing up the cost of producing turkey meat and giblets. Eight hundred turkeys fed with Firman’s formula — containing the exact amount of amino acids needed to maximize growth and a reduced portion of corn and soybean — got the same ration as those gobbling down traditional feed. Firman’s amino-acid-fed turkeys met health targets and reached market weight in 18 to 21 weeks.

Firman’s feed could have significant impact in Missouri, the nation’s fourth-largest turkey producer. Its 21.5 million turkeys are about 10 percent of U.S. production.