By on 11.25.14 in Economic Data, NC in Focus

NC doesn’t just lead the nation in sweet potatoes – we’re also one of the top turkey producing states. Here are a few fun facts about NC turkeys:


Turkey production—measured as number of heads of turkey produced—peaked in North Carolina in 1992, with 62 million turkeys.

Turkey Production in Head, 1929-2013

The number of turkeys produced in North Carolina has steadily declined since its mid-1990s peak. Although this has led to some declines in overall pounds of turkey produced, fewer turkeys does not necessarily mean less turkey meat. The USDA’s Turkey Industry Overview notes, “Higher production efficiency, achieved by the increase in an average per bird weight and technological advances, led to a reduction in total turkeys raised per year” between 2008 and 2013.

1.2 billion

The pounds of turkey produced by North Carolina in 2013. This is a decline of 20% from 1996, when North Carolina farms produced 1.5 billion pounds of turkey.

Turkey Production in Billions of Pounds, 1929-2013


The share of the nation’s turkeys projected to be produced in North Carolina in 2014.

Two-thirds of U.S. turkeys are raised in 6 states: Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, and Virginia.

$769 million

The estimated value of North Carolina’s turkey production in 2013.


The number of North Carolina farms with turkey production operations in 2012. This a decline of 46% from 1997, when 773 farms produced turkeys for slaughter or breeding.


The share of North Carolina’s turkeys produced in Sampson and Duplin counties in 2012. Sampson produced 9.8 million turkeys and Duplin produced 9 million.

Sampson also led the state in sweet potato production. Statewide, 1.4% of the employed population is employed in agriculture according to the 2011-2013 American Community Survey. In Sampson, 13.4% are, nearly ten times the state rate.

Learn more about NC turkeys:

With the exception of county-level data retrieved from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, all data used in this post were retrieved from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

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