The USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases turkeys and turkey products, along with other foods, for government feeding programs, such as school lunch, child care centers, senior citizens and other participants in food assistance programs of USDA's Food and Consumer Service (FCS).

Whole body turkeys can be time consuming to prepare or require skills unavailable from kitchen employees who work in these programs. Processing programs are available to convert them into more convenient and usable turkey products.

The combination of government programs in conjunction with private industry processing offers many advantages:

  • Lower initial product cost because grades other than U.S. Grade A are used.
  • Achieve a higher percentage of edible cooked poultry due to techniques of commercial processors.
  • Lower labor costs because processed products take less time to prepare and do not require skilled labor.
  • Maintain overhead because products can be designed to work on existing equipment.
  • Reduce risk of bacterial contamination during handling.
  • Reduce required storage space as processed products need about 60 percent less space than required for whole birds.
  • Stabilize costs through portion control.
  • Reduce waste in your food preparation process.

Here's how the program works:

1. Each state has an agency responsible for ordering and distributing USDA-AMS commodity turkey and turkey products.

2. Contracts for processing are between the state distribution agency and commercial turkey processors. In some states, the contract is between recipient agency and the processor, but it must be approved by the distribution agency.

3. AMS supervises the processing of all donated poultry regardless of the volume or the dollar value of the processing contract.

4. The recipient agency selects the most appropriate assortment of turkey products from the "packages" offered by the processor. The packages usually can be modified to meet specific recipient needs, on a regional basis.

5. The contract specifies exactly how the whole body turkey is to be processed, packed and delivered.

6. The processor submits performance reports to the state distribution agency.

For additional information about processing commodity turkeys and turkey products, contact your state commodity director or one of the following:

Grading Branch
Poultry Division, AMS, USDA
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Room 3935-South
Washington, DC 20250
Phone: (202) 720-4411

Food Distribution Division
3101 Park Center Drive, Room 504
Alexandria, VA 22302
Phone: (703) 305-2680


Private, for-profit firms also can consider using this system of processing whole body turkeys. Depending on the nature of their foodservice customers, such firms may be able to participate in the government-supported conversion program.


A Sampling of Assortments Available Through Conversion Programs
Option #1
Breast Slab (fully cooked)
Smoked Turkey Picnic
Turkey Bologna
Option #2
Breast Slab (fully cooked)
Canadian Bacon
Sausage Roll (fully cooked)
Option #3
Breast (natural shape)
Smoked Ham
Turkey Salami
Turkey Bologna
Option #4
Breast Slab (fully cooked)
Turkey Pastrami
Turkey Bologna
Sources: Turkey processors. Other options available.


Other commonly included items are:

  • Cooked roasts (may be flavored)
  • Combination white/dark meat rolls
  • Ground turkey (may be cooked and flavored)
  • Hot dogs/Wieners

Sources of Supply
Processing Programs
USDA Inspection & Grading
Labeling Terms
Yield from Turkey

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