Hutterites Underestimate Demand for Turkeys

By Beacon Staff

GOLDEN VALLEY COLONY – A Hutterite colony near Billings that specializes in raising all-natural turkeys for holiday feasts cut production by half this year due to what they thought would be decreased demand for the more expensive birds because of the tough economy.

But demand for the birds that are sold fresh without first being frozen hasn’t slackened, and now it’s too late to raise more birds.

Paul Hofer, Golden Valley Colony turkey boss, said only 1,500 turkeys were raised this year.

“We usually go with 3,000 but with the economy like it is, I didn’t know,” Hofer said. “These are good turkeys, raised on corn and barley, all natural. If it’s not all natural, don’t even talk about it. People aren’t going to buy it.”

A large percentage of Golden Valley’s stock has already been bought by private businesses, he said. A lumber company in Livingston bought 200.

“People like them,” said Denny Crick of Montana Harvest Natural Health Store. “I don’t know if there’s been an increase, but there’s a consistent demand.”

He said customers have been reserving Golden Valley turkeys since Nov. 1. The small ones weigh about 15 pounds, but some can be as large as 24 pounds.

They cost more than $1.70 per pound, making them more expensive than the $1.29 a pound for frozen turkeys.

Hofer said he’ll hold some turkeys back that are destined for Christmas dinners, but there won’t be enough birds to meet demand. He said it takes about 16 to 18 weeks to raise the turkeys.

Mountain View Colony, another Hutterite colony that also raises turkeys, said private businesses have already bought most of their birds.

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