Introduction

In 1970, a male turkey averaged only 16.9 pounds and required 3.10 pounds of feed for every pound of gain at 18 weeks of age. Today, genetic and nutritional improvements have increased growth such that the average male turkey at 18 weeks of age weighs 33.4 pounds and requires only 2.52 pounds of feed for every pound of gain (Fig. 1).[1] Because average body weights for hens are only 21.75 pounds, the industry has developed separate markets and rearing practices for male and female turkeys. Turkey toms (males) are reared primarily for cut-out and further processed products, whereas hens are reared for whole-bird and parts markets. This phenomenal increase in growth has not come without its share of health, metabolic, structural, and nutritional issues. Primary issues in the area of nutrition for modern turkey production include 1) transition diets at the start of life;

2) feeding to maximize gastrointestinal (GIT) health;

3) bone integrity; 4) minimizing environmental impact; and 5) maximizing muscle mass and meat quality.

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