Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Koch’s Turkey Farm

By Kate Medley, October 17, 2008  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Kate Medley

This blog post previously contained an outdated video about a supplier. We have removed the video to prevent confusion. We have always believed in and fought for the improvement of welfare for farm animals industry-wide, and all the pork, beef, chicken and turkey in our fresh meat cases comes from producers who have achieved certification to Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating system.

The Koch Family has been raising turkeys on 60 acres of land in the Lewiston Valley of Pennsylvania for three generations. Duane Koch runs Koch’s Turkey Farm with the help of his three sisters, and together they raise free-range turkeys using an all-vegetarian diet of locally grown corn and roasted soybean.  With the feed mill, turkey houses and processing facility all located on the family property near Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, the turkeys are able to live their entire lives on the same land. Note: Our Farm to Market slide shows currently feature farmers and producers from our South and MidAtlantic Regions. We hope to expand to others in the future.




zoe says ...
My kids LOVE KOCHS Turkey Breast...........YUM YUM
10/21/2008 11:50:42 AM CDT
Sue Taylor says ...
I grew up in Tamaqua ....anthracite coal region...we ate Koch's poultry my whole life especially with a family of six!!
10/21/2008 1:22:05 PM CDT
gleanna doyle says ...
PLease help me to understand 'acceptable' beak trimming. What farms specifically do your organic turkeys come from? Can I look them up to see what their humane certifications are? Why do you feed soybean meal?
11/12/2008 9:08:16 AM CST
hsiaw says ...
@gleanna Thanks for your thoughtful questions. Here's what I've pulled together from our folks in the Meat Department. <strong>Beak Trimming</strong> We allow the performance of physical alterations only when the overall physical and psychological welfare of the flock or herd would be benefited to prevent possible injury and only when conducted by a trained operator in an appropriate manner that minimizes any discomfort. In reference to turkeys, beak trimming is conducted to stop the birds from feather pecking and injuring one another. Only the very tip of the beak can be removed. <strong>Organic Farms</strong> Many of our stores get their birds from local or regional vendors, so it'd be best to check in with your nearest store to ask which farms their organic turkeys come from. <strong>Humane Certification</strong> Turkeys labeled as organic need to meet the standards set forth by the National Organic Program. In addition, to get into our stores, all products need to meet our quality standards. Many vendors, such as Koch's go a step further and seek out humane practices certification from other third parties. At Whole Foods Market, we are working on a meat rating system that encompasses many of these issues. We plan on starting roll out of that plan in mid-2009 and we'll let you guys know when it's in stores. <strong>Soybean meal</strong> Soybean meal is fed to most birds in North America as part of a balanced feed ration and it's never fed alone - it's usually mixed with corn, as well as other grains and legumes.
11/13/2008 3:38:09 PM CST
AEM says ...
I am offended...he holds the turkey like it's his pet...however, we all know what will happen to that turkey.
11/15/2008 12:02:11 PM CST
Laura in Va. says ...
Waiting on answers to Gleanna's questions and additionally, please confirm whether or not these turkeys breed naturally. Thanksgiving purchase hangs in the balance!
11/17/2008 2:18:13 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
@Laura in VA: For more information on Koch's Turkey Farm's natural breeding practices, you can refer to the 'Practices' section of their website: http://www.kochsturkey.com/practices.html.
11/17/2008 2:59:36 PM CST
Erica says ...
It's wonderful to see a good family farm that appears to respect their turkeys. I also want to know if they breed naturally and if their beaks are trimmed (I want to say inhumanely like those PETA chicken videos). I would be more than happy to spend the extra money for this brand knowing the turkey had a good life.
11/17/2008 10:29:02 PM CST
Dee says ...
Here is what their website says about 'practices': These guidelines also take into account the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), practical standards for the proper care of and Treatment of Turkeys. In addition to meeting these guidelines, Koch’s scored a 100% on the Turkey Welfare and Humane practices independent audit by Steritech. Here is the link to the RSPCA's standards for Turkeys: http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RSPCA/RSPCARedirect&amp;pg=welfarestandards&amp;marker=1&amp;articleId=1121442811665
11/18/2008 1:52:37 PM CST
Ed Cifu says ...
Hi Everyone. I’m Ed Cifu, and I’m the meat coordinator for the South Region of Whole Foods Market. I’ve been to Koch’s farm and seen the entire operation, so hopefully I can answer the questions you’ve posed here. “Acceptable beak-trimming” is conducted to stop the birds from feather pecking and injuring one another. Only the very tip of the beak can be removed, per Whole Foods Market animal compassion standards, and it is done by laser when the birds are a day or two old. Our organic turkeys are coming from Plainville Farms in Plainville, New York. They are fed Certified Organic feed – the main difference between the two turkeys we offer. Soybean meal is a part of their feed because it offers additional protein without using animal by-products, like many conventional poultry farms. The Koch family feeds its turkeys a mixture of locally grown corn and roasted soybeans. Duane Koch says, “All our turkeys are all-vegetarian fed, we don’t use any byproducts of any kind – no cooking meal, bakery byproducts, fish byproducts, pet food byproducts – we don’t use anything but an all-vegetarian corn and soybean meal diet.” The turkeys do not breed naturally. This is a tough process, especially in large groups, as you might recall from Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle! Thanks for reading and watching!
11/21/2008 10:23:17 AM CST
Tom says ...
How do you meet the turkey's amino acid requirements with just roasted soy and corn? Don't you have a methionine and other protein deficiency in the feed? Usually the animal proteins in a feed ration help make for these amino acids or they are added as supplements to the feed individually. How do you accomplish this?
11/24/2008 3:04:02 PM CST
medleyk says ...
As Ed mentioned in his previous posting, the Koch family feeds its turkeys a mixture of corn and roasted soybeans. The birds are never fed animal proteins of any sort. To fortify the corn and soybean diet, the Koch family adds extra vitamins and minerals, such as lysine and methionine (both amino acids), to the feed.
11/26/2008 10:49:25 AM CST
gina says ...
I grew up in Tamaqua and moved to North Carolina 6 years ago. I have eaten the turkeys all my life. They also have a store to go and buy other products. Two of my sons actually worked for the Kochs on the farm when they were in school. This area is so beautiful if you ever get an opportunity to visit there are camp grounds close by. This area is still mostly farming. Last night when watching the news a commercial came on for Whole Foods and showed that they have Kochs Turkeys. Now that I know that don't need to bring back from PA. when I go home to visit.
12/18/2008 4:19:10 PM CST
william says ...
"they truly do care about how they raise their animals" - wow this is shocking! Where are the scenes of what really does happen to these Turkeys???
06/20/2009 8:30:03 PM CDT
Anita says ...
Is the corn and soy that you feed the turkeys gmo-free?
11/24/2009 8:43:19 AM CST
Virginia says ...
Yes, Anita...I was about to ask the same question because of the dangers of genetically modified corn and soybeans. I am concerned with what we are not being told. We were told they are fed corn and roasted soybeans. When we probed further we found out they are given vitamins and minerals,lysine and methionine. I would also like to know if they were given antibiotics at any stage of their life including in egg. I want one of their turkeys; but I want to know what is in it. I want to know if I need to go to their organic birds or heritage birds which I am really considering as this is something I want to support also. There is no right or wrong on this - only needed information to make the best choice for your family. Any way you look at it, these birds will be far superior to others we could purchase. I appreciate this forum to obtain answers...thank you.
11/04/2010 10:01:41 AM CDT
CV says ...
I too am curious if the feed is GM corn and soy... Just because it is grown locally doesnt mean that it is GMO-free, and it didnt say that the feed was organic, just that the turkeys are fed an 'all-vegetarian diet.'
11/08/2010 11:17:52 AM CST
bepkom says ...
All of our turkeys are raised to these standards: •No antibiotics — ever •No supplemental growth hormones (which are prohibited in poultry) •No animal byproducts in feed I’ve asked our meat team if they can find out about the local feed for Koch’s turkey, but in the meantime your best bet is to look for the Koch’s organic birds. Buying organic is the best way to avoid GMOs in feed.
11/08/2010 11:18:24 AM CST
Brunty Farms says ...
As I read this I'm kind of taken back of the cluelessness of consumers. I've said this to day one to all of our consumers and it still holds true today. Go visit the farms that you wish to purchase food from. Love whole foods, they have done a great job accomplishing many things that the normal grocery chain couldn't touch. The thing is, this is great having this comment page to where you can interact, but you need to ask these questions directly to the farmer. Go to the farm and visit the animals. This way it isn't hearsay. I can tell you from experience that unless the birds are organic, there is GMO's in the feed. Secondly, to clear up the beak trimming.... this is done on commercial farms such as the one that is being advertised. If turkeys are given the correct space and raised on pasture, there is no need to debeak the birds. "The very tip of the beak is trimmed".... let me give you an exact measurement.... it's one fourth the actual beak which hinders the bird to forage for insects and for grass. Typical for turkeys raised in a commercial setting.... again if you visit a farm that raises turkeys you can be a first hand witness to why this is an unfortunate step in turkey farming and chances are your local farmer does NOT debeak their poultry. There is no need to trim the beak of a turkey for any reason, maybe this farm shouldn't be raising 20,000 turkeys then. To touch on the breeding topic, no they are not bred naturally. This is a commercial practice. The reason for it is because the birds grow to an enormous weight that inhibits breeding. It just can not be done naturally, simply because they are too big. If this is an issue with any consumer they need to try and source a heritage type turkey. Turkeys to look for are Bourbon Reds, Royal Palm, Black Spanish,.... they are the most popular heritage turkeys. Stay away from the bronze, even though they are called heritage, they still have the same practices as the white turkeys as far as breeding goes. Whole Foods... good job with trail blazing the food industry. You have a long way to go, especially in your meat department but overall I give you a thumbs up. Brunty Farms
11/10/2010 7:36:10 PM CST
Linda Davis says ...
I too would like to know about the diet of these turkeys. I thought they are free range. Doesn't this mean they roam around eating stuff they find? I saw a farm on tv where they took the turkeys to a different site on the farm every day so they could find food in nature.
11/11/2010 3:56:32 PM CST
Brunty Farms says ...
Linda- I would have to say no, due to the other farms on this blog that I have seen. None of them are given pasture but merely a barn and an outside run. The turkeys are 99% more than likely just like any other turkey farm, 100% no hormones, 100% vegetarian diet, free range, beaks trimmed, and no pasture to forage. Why? Well 100% no hormones is an easy one, it's illegal to administer hormones in poultry and swine. It's also illegal to advertise this without disclosing that the USDA prohibits the use of antibiotics to said customers. Secondly, 100% vegetarian fed diet is the new standard in the poultry world. Why? For one, it's cheaper and secondly people demanded it. It proves that over time that even big companies can change their practices if given enough pressure to do so. As for free range, mostly all turkeys are free range, however the extent of free range is solely up to the farm. Free Range must have access to the outdoors however it fails to cap stocking density limits (meaning that you can put 10,000 turkeys in a barn that realistically can only fit 2,000) and to mention the condition of the run which is normally gravel or dirt. Almost all commercially raised turkeys are raised like this and very few are given adequate pasture to which to forage. When I say adequate, I mean it's necessary to move the turkeys frequently so they don't over eat the grass and burn out the pasture which is so frequently done on these commercial farms. It's funny to see the turkeys in this video because they are pictures and not video. To me it looks like it's staged with them being outside on pasture.... and I would hardly call that strip of grass between the barn and the gravel pasture. I can tell you from the few hundred turkeys that we raise that they would devour any strip of grass like that in a matter of minutes and over the course of a few days it would be solid dirt not to mention the drive would be compacted with manure. Which is why the photos, in my opinion are staged. The true photos are of the ones that you see with the turkeys in the barn and in their designated run. It's unfortunate because the last little detail is the beaks, they are trimmed. A turkey with a trimmed beak wouldn't be on pasture. The reason why the beaks are trimmed is because turkeys have an amazing drive to forage for food. Their instincts to basically kill and eat whatever moves is so intense, that if not given this freedom to exercise this basic instinct, they will turn on each other. Which is why the beaks are trimmed, in a commercial setting, this does benefit the turkeys otherwise there would be a blood bath. It would devastate the farmers income as many turkeys would simply be picked to death. However in a natural, pasture raised setting a trimmed beak would actually severely hinder the birds natural instincts to forage for it's food. They are considered free range but the standards of free range to you and I are obviously higher than these turkey farms and Whole Foods. I too would like to see more farmers being supported that follow pasture raised practices and not just feedlot free range. The problem lays with most of us consumers, more people need to be like you Linda and want to educate themselves so the can make better choices for you and your family. Brunty Farms
11/15/2010 9:06:41 AM CST
Brunty Farms says ...
I'm sorry, the USDA prohibits the use of hormones in poultry and swine..... antibiotics are usually routinely used in many commercial settings. Basically this is for therapeutic reasons both non and therapeutic. Therapeutic antibiotics are given to prevent diseases, these are the dangerous ones that build up resistance. Then you have the non-therapeutic antibiotics, these are merely just for greed. What these antibiotics do is enhance the growth of swine and poultry, which is why the use of hormones isn't needed. Swine is worse than poultry in this sense as most poultry in the united states are not fed non-therapeutic antibiotics anymore because the amount of gain was smaller than what the gain would be if just fed more feed. Basically it's cheaper to feed more grains, than to give therapeutic antibiotics. However for swine the overall result is 9% more profits when given therapeutic antibiotics which are routinely given to pigs. But as for the use of hormones, it's illegal to both use it or advertise it.
11/15/2010 1:58:09 PM CST
bepkom says ...
We encourage our customers to get to know the farmers and ranchers who provide the meat they purchase. Here’s a link to Koch’s website for information on their raising practices: http://www.kochsturkey.com/practices.html. If you have more questions beyond this, please contact them directly to ensure you get the most accurate information available. Thanks!
12/10/2010 12:18:30 PM CST
Daniela W says ...
I, too, don't feel that Koch's Turkey farm, though a little better than the commercial farms, are truly and humanely raising their turkeys. It's because of the practices of debeaking and breeding these white turkeys to be so large that they can't even mate naturally, that our family has stopped eating them. Until animals can be raised the way nature intended them to be, truly humanely, with room to roam and no bodily alterations that are needed due to overcrowding, I don't think any kind of poultry or meat will be served at our dinner table.
05/22/2011 7:40:46 PM CDT
Patricia Eutzy says ...
Hi seen a ad in Lancaster Farmer that you are looking for possible people to maybe grow turkeys I think that's what the ad is impying. If so we are interested let us know via email or fax 8146673757 ok Thank you Patty Eutzy
09/18/2011 10:46:36 AM CDT