Thursday, September 21, 2023

Iowa State Turkey Teaching and Research Facility breaks ground

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AMES, Iowa — The Iowa State University Department of Animal Science has received more than $2 million in private donations for its brand-new Turkey Teaching and Research Facility — the only one of its kind focused on turkey production at a major university.

A groundbreaking event took place south of the campus on 520th Ave. The facility will actually reside north of the Robert T. Hamilton Poultry Teaching and Research Farm.

“This new turkey research, teaching and extension facility will ensure we are providing the best hands-on education for students and the infrastructure to drive new scientific discoveries across the turkey industry,” said Dr. Dan Thomson, chair of the Iowa State University animal science department.

The Turkey Teaching and Research Facility will provide a living classroom for students to experience hands-on learning in modern production practices, flexible space and state-of-the-art equipment for research that addresses current challenges facing the turkey industry. It also will offer outreach, continuing education and peer-to-peer opportunities for professionals in the industry.

Observation areas will allow visitors to witness first-hand examples of turkey production systems and learn more about turkey production. This university-industry partnership is fully funded through contributions from industry partners and private donors.

A lead gift was provided by Jim and Julie Balloun of Atlanta, Ga. Jim Balloun received his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Iowa State and is the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Acuity Brands Inc., a lighting and building management firm headquartered in Atlanta, Ga. His father, Stanley L. Balloun, served as professor in animal science at Iowa State and was an international expert and leader in the science of turkey feed.

West Liberty Foods headquartered in West Liberty and the Iowa Turkey Federation headquartered in Ames provided initial investments. West Liberty Foods formed in 1996 by 47 Iowa turkey growers. The company and its growers/owners are committed to animal health, welfare and delivering superior-quality turkeys. The Iowa Turkey Federation, which represents more than 130 turkey farmers in Iowa, established in 1948 to advocate for the enhancement of the turkey industry and its members.

“Iowa’s turkey farmers have a continuous desire to learn new information to better care for their turkeys and the environment,” said Gretta Irwin, executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation. “We are delighted to partner with Iowa State on an exceptional new facility that will serve its excellent faculty and students, and help provide industry and farmers with the resources and information they need to move in the right direction with their operations.”

Iowa’s turkey industry is one of the largest in the United States, ranking seventh in turkey production and raising approximately 12 million turkeys annually. The industry supports more than 38,000 total jobs and is responsible for more than $10 billion annually in economic activity throughout Iowa.

Iowa State University plays a critical role in preparing professionals for Iowa’s poultry industries. Poultry science has been part of the university’s curriculum for over a century, and the university has one of the world’s strongest research programs in poultry genetics, breeding, nutrition and management.

Donors made their gift commitments through the Iowa State University Foundation. The foundation is a private, nonprofit organization committed to securing and managing gifts that benefit Iowa State University. “The Forever True, For Iowa State” campaign (with a historic goal to raise $1.5 billion) will help support Iowa State in becoming the premier land-grant university for the 21st century and beyond.

Visit for more information about the foundation.

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