Pennsylvania turkey farm is more than a business; it’s a tradition

LEECHBURG, Pa. — American tradition, pride and entrepreneurship are what keeps the Pounds Turkey Farm going.

Tim and Rick Pounds own and operate the 200-acre farm, which is located in Leechburg. They process 1,200 turkeys a day at this busy time of the year.

The brothers bought the operation from their father in 1986. Their father, Harry, started the business with his brother, John, in 1935. John became a school teacher, so Harry became the sole owner. Both are now deceased.

Total turkeys

The farm raises and processes between 11,000 and 12,000 turkeys a year. Of those, 8,000 birds are raised specifically for Thanksgiving. Another 1,200 are grown for the Christmas holidays. The remainder is sold fresh through the remainder of the year.

The Pounds Turkey Farm sells 2,000 birds directly out of the store located at the farm and the other 6,000 are sold at stores in Pennsylvania and to businesses that give turkeys to employees.

The farm raises between 10 and 11 flocks a year to ensure the customer has a variety of sizes to choose from. The farm aims to have turkeys between 12 and 30 pounds when they are harvested.

The breed they raise is Hybrid, which is an all white feather turkey. They are purchased as poults from a hatchery in Michigan and are delivered the day they are hatched.

On-farm store. In addition, to the turkeys, the store also makes gravy and “Grandma’s Cranberry Sauce,” which is a recipe from Thelma Pounds, Tim and Rick’s mother.

The farm also sells turkey meats, including ground meat, sauce and several deli-products, such as smoked turkey breast, turkey breast Pastrami, turkey honey ham and bologna. The store is open year-round.

The store also sells beef raised on the farm by the halves and quarters. The farm raises 30 beef cattle for this enterprise.

All of the cattle and turkeys are raised without antibiotic and hormones.

Open air coops

The farm uses open air coops to raise the birds. Bev Pounds, Tim’s wife, said they have considered the idea of open range production, but believe the turkeys are safer and more content in their coops. The birds are safe from wildlife and are still able to reap the benefits of fresh air and sunshine in the coops.

The Pounds do raise a majority of their own feed for the turkeys, including corn, oats and wheat. Depending upon the yields, some local corn is purchased, if necessary. The farm also feeds a soybean meal/concentrate to the birds during their development.

Processing

The farm utilizes a two-day processing system to get the birds from the coops to the bags. The first day, the birds are butchered and processed. Then, they are stored in chilled water overnight and on the second day, the birds are double checked for feathers, other markings, then weighed and bagged.

The farm is inspected by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Bev Pounds said utilizing the state department of agriculture and not the USDA limits the number of turkeys the farm can process a year, but it is a choice the family is content with at this point.

Additions and changes would have to be made to the existing processing facility for the USDA inspection and since it is kept as a family farm, the Pounds don’t see the need.

The USDA is required to be on-site to inspect the facility and operations when a farm processes more than 20,000 birds a year.

Other limitations

The state inspection prohibits the Pounds from shipping their turkeys out of the state, so the whole turkeys and breasts are sold only in 20 stores in Pennsylvania.

However, turkey meat that requires further processing is not allowed to be sold in stores. Bev Pounds said anything that requires smoking or seasoning can be sold only in the on-farm store.

Farm life

The farm employs a total of 30 people seasonally and five are year-round employees. The employees are able to process 1,200 turkeys a day.

Pounds said the farm has provided many blessings for the family.

“It’s been a good way to raise our children,” Pounds said, and she likes knowing the farm ethic is something that will stay with them no matter what career path they take.

Their children, who are both in college, come home to help with farm chores, especially during the busy season. In addition, Rick’s three daughters and son-in-law also work on the farm.

Pounds said the farm keeps the family grounded and makes the Thanksgiving holiday even more special for the family.

“It’s really neat to be a part of people’s Thanksgiving holiday. We have a niche that is so American.”

For additional information about the turkey industry in the state of Pennsylvania, click below to view a video from Penn State.

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

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