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Turkey, anyone?

Don't expect your turkey to be home grown

   News Editor
   Jefferson County families planning to feast on the traditional main course this Thanksgiving Holiday will likely not be eating home grown turkeys.
   Few turkeys these days are grown in Central Oregon or the entire state, for that matter. What was once a thriving agricultural industry in Oregon has gone elsewhere in recent years.
   But you will find a few of the gobbling birds in the region -- just don't expect them to appear on your plate.
   "We used to raise and eat them but my husband liked them so much they became pets," says Traci Sauls of Culver, whose prized 50-pound turkey "Tony Orlando" has won two first-place ribbons in recent competitions where there were no other birds on hand to accept second or third place.
   At one time, Oregon was a very large producer of turkeys in the West, but the commercial turkey industry here is all but gone. The industry's demise took place in the early 1990s when it became cheaper to grow turkeys in California, the Midwest and Southeast United States.
   A batch of contaminated turkeys shipped from Oregon to Utah, which resulted in a recall before Thanksgiving in 1992, also didn't help. More than 70,000 of the Oregon-grown birds had to be destroyed then.
   Oregon at one time used to produce about 2.5 million turkeys annually. That was enough to provide consumers an Oregon-grown product, but our main course this Thanksgiving will likely come from either Minnesota, North Carolina or California.
   But there has never been a shortage of turkeys here year-round. Excluding those that prefer fresh over frozen turkey, grocery shoppers don't seem to mind where their birds come from.
   Even those still produced in Oregon usually head out of state.
   Many people are saying this is a special Thanksgiving -- one to really ponder where to give thanks in light of the Sept. 11 tragedy and U.S. military personnel putting their lives in danger overseas.
   For Jefferson County turkeys, it may also be a time to give thanks -- thanks that they won't be anyone's Thanksgiving dinner.
   "We'll still have turkey," says Sauls. "But we'll probably buy it at Safeway."
   And Tony Orlando will have another shot at first place.