Welcome back to another installment of our Know Your Farmer series. In this post, we’re going to get to know Koch’s Turkey Farm, a second generation family farm on 60 acres in Lewiston Valley, Pennsylvania.
As some of you may have read, we started working with Koch’s in January of this year. It was the end of a long road for us in trying to find a turkey farm that both satisfied our standards and had a great-tasting product, and we are thankful to have found such a great partner in Koch’s.
A Second Generation Family Farm
Koch’s is a second generation turkey farm, founded in 1953 by Lowell and Elizabeth Koch (above, second from right). The farm is now run by the second generation family members Barb (featured above left), Duane, Beth, and Pam. Barb runs the sales efforts, while the rest of the family focuses on farmer relationships, growing and production.
We took the 2 1/2 hour ride out to Lewiston Valley to see the family and farm operation first hand. It was a great trip and we learned a lot.
The turkey farm is set on 60 acres and has 12 turkey houses. During their busiest season (Thanksgiving), Koch’s can have as many as 40,000 turkeys on their home farm range. In milder weather, the turkey’s are allowed to leave the houses and roam free. During the colder months, the turkeys are kept inside, though the sides of the sheds are open (screened in) and nicely ventilated so fresh air can pass through. When it gets really cold, Koch’s uses butane gas heaters to keep the birds warm. The birds tend to do a nice job of keeping each other warm by staying close to one another.
We also got to see the processing facility in full swing. Though we are quite comfortable with the humane nature of their slaughtering practices, we’ll spare you the details since this probably isn’t something that anyone wants to read about, irrespective of how humane the process is. In addition to seeing it ourselves, the fact that Koch’s is a Certified Humane farm allowed us to get very comfortable with their processing standards.
The big reason we visit our livestock farms is to understand how the animals are raised and processed. Because Koch’s is Certified Humane (which has very explicit guidelines and standards), we already had a good sense as to what type of practices are employed there. That being said, it is always best to see the operation first hand. The birds are naturally raised, antibiotic-free, and served a vegetarian diet comprised primarily of corn and soybeans. Here are a few of their standards worth mentioning – they do a great job.
- Lighting. Houses are open on the side so lighting is natural, both sunlight and darkness. This is above the certified humane requirement to give the turkeys a minimum of 8 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness per day.
- Antibiotics. The birds we buy from Koch’s are never, ever administered antibiotics (hence the term “antibiotic-free” or ABF). To the extent they fall ill, antibiotics are permitted for disease treatment only, and these birds are then removed from the all-natural, antibiotic-free population and sold as conventional birds (which we don’t purchase).
- Air Quality. Again, because the houses are open on the sides, the air quality in Koch’s turkey houses is above the Certified Humane standard, which is based an ammonia levels – not to exceed 25 ppm and recommended to be less than 10 ppm.
- Outdoor Access. Once again, Koch’s is above the Certified Humane standard. Though Certified Humane does not require outdoor access, Koch’s turkeys are allowed access whenever temperatures allow. We did not get to see them out of the houses since it was 45 degrees when we visited in January, but we were told that the birds really enjoy getting out and stretching their legs.
So that, in a nutshell, is why we’re thrilled to be working with Koch’s Turkey Farm. As always, please let us know if you have any questions or comments. We like to talk turkey.
Want to learn more about Koch’s Turkey Farm? Lots of good info on their website.