Penn State

Talking turkey: PSU students accrue experience by raising, selling birds for Thanksgiving fundraiser

For at least 30 years, Penn State’s Poultry Science Club has undertaken a fundraising project that is truly hands-on.

This year it started Aug. 25, when more than 500 day-old turkeys arrived at the Penn State poultry farm.

Professor Michael Hulet runs a research project, which the birds are a part of. He has about 2,400 to 3,200 birds each year, and his research does not affect raising the turkeys.

Along with the club, Hulet’s Poultry Production and Management class and another agriculture class help raise the birds.

The results of their efforts, minus a number of birds sold to a private business, are about 400 freshly processed and shrink-wrapped turkeys that will go on sale today and Tuesday, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Phillip Clauer, club adviser and professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences, said the project works out so the company that underwrites the research project basically donates 400 to 500 birds to the club at the end.

The sale, which is entirely student-run, pays for the club’s trip to the International Poultry Expo in Atlanta every January, said club President Taylor Young, a junior majoring in animal science, with a minor in poultry and avian science.

For a club member to attend, he or she must work eight hours at the turkey sale, scrapbook an entire page and do a day farm show, said Clauer.

Clauer said that profit varies year to year but it typically ranges from $6,000 to $12,000 annually.

The club has 35 members, 25 of whom are considered active, and the majority help out with the turkey harvest, Young said. Clauer also added that between the club and the classes that help, along with supervisors, there will be about 60 people processing and selling the turkeys.

Clauer called the sale an efficient and educational way to raise money for the club.

“In some instances students learn more in this extracurricular fundraiser than a lot of them do in a class,” he said.

The club started processing the turkeys on Friday and planned to work through the weekend to get them ready to sell. The club’s process of killing and cleaning the birds is humane and approved by the state Department of Agriculture, Young said.

The students began working at 5:30 a.m. Friday and will continue until all of the turkeys are sold. Students work directly to harvest the bird, package it for sale, and with customers, Clauer said.

This year the club planned to prepare 400 turkeys, but it doesn’t take orders in advance, Young said, because “there is no way to predict how the turkeys will turn out.”

The sale has proved popular over the years. Last year the sale continued into Tuesday, Young said, but two years ago the birds were gone on Monday.

The club has not had to do much advertising because it heavily relies on word-of-mouth. Clauer said there is an announcement that goes out in the college’s newsletter, but that is about it.

The club’s main buyers are Penn State faculty and staff, Office of Physical Plant members, locals and even alumni who know about the sale and find a way to get a turkey.

Clauer said there was even an alumnus from northern Virginia who used to come up for 64 turkeys to give as a present to everyone in his company. He used a pickup truck full of ice to safely transport the turkeys and did it for three years.

Young said she hopes to perhaps open the doors by 11:30 a.m. today for the noon start, but she expects to see a line of customers by 10:30.