Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkeys Have Green, Sustainable Value

Thanksgiving Turkeys - Have Green Options

The holiday season is approaching and the demand for turkey on the festive tables is reaching it's yearly high.  The turkey, a fowl that is native to North America, is a traditional favorite for the holidays. And the desire for recipes for using the left-overs will saturate the searches in the coming weeks.The Minnesota Turkey industry provides 47 million turkeys for Thanksgiving, 22 M for the Christmas holiday, and Easter requires another 19 M turkeys. But to get all of those turkeys to market, the industry creates tons of waste. 

The staggering numbers of turkeys consumed has created a massive amount of turkey litter (poo) that could be piling up in mountains of waste with a smell that penetrates whole neighborhoods.  Tons of turkey littler, 750,000 tons (!) is just one number I found for Minnesota, which is the top turkey producing state in the U.S.  
Bulk turkey litter on farms

Turkey poo is trucked from farms to electric producing power plants.  There the turkey litter, which is a mix of manure and bedding, is burned to create steam that will produce enough electricity to serve 60,000 homes in the region.


Fibrominn Plant, Benson, Minn.

Staggering numbers of turkey litter is transported from local farms producing 4500 - 5000 semi-truck loads.  After the litter is burned, that massive, bulky, smelly product is reduced to 18 dump trailers of ash.  Ash that is sold back to the farms as a nutrient rich organic fertilizer without the bulk - without the odor.   

Bulk to Ash

This product is a mere 2% of the original mass of manure, but the nutrient values and ease of applying this form of turkey litter is unsurpassed. Applying manures from any source to farm fields has created environmental problems.  The Phosphorous and nitrates build up in soils, then these substances in the soil leach from the manures into runoff, affecting groundwater and surface waterways. 

This lab report of broiler litter ash indicates the intense concentrations of nutrients are 10 - 17 times more concentrated than the bulk poultry litter.  This added benefit of using turkey litter ash is powerful  and the ash is lighter in weight and transportation costs are much less than moving the tons of raw material. The nitrates are burned up in the combustion process. In addition to the added macro-nutrients of N-P-K of the ash, the micro-nutrients that plants also need is concentrated at higher levels than the raw manure.

Turkey Farm

Even though the turkey litter is not literally a 'left over', this by-product of the turkey industry is being used to it's maximum benefits for a very sustainable source for power.  


Another by-product of the turkey industry is feathers. Turkey feathers offer another source for organic fertilizer.  Feather meal is processed from all poultry sources, duck, chickens, and turkeys.  By a pressurized steam process , feather meal is a great, slow-releasing organic fertilizer that is high in Nitrogen.  As with all organic fertilizers, micro-organisms in the soil will release the nutrients to plants. 

The sustainable energy source for our times -  truly a green option. Turkeys - litter, to generate electricity, litter to generate organic fertilizers, and feathers to generate organic fertilizers. The turkey litter and feathers are indeed sustainable with no seasonality for the product. The birds are always going to 'go' and litter is unlimited.  Oh, and let's not forget, turkey is the star of the holiday feasts.  

Visit Fort Wayne Photo
Thanksgiving turkey has many high grade advantages for our time. Taste, Tradition and Sustainability. 

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