In the early 1900s, a few Michigan farmers and their families began raising turkeys. They found that the temperate climate and rich land of Allegan, Ottawa, Kent, and Barry counties produced a bigger and healthier bird. As word of these great turkeys spread, more families started raising turkeys on their Michigan farms.
In December of 1998, Sara Lee ceased turkey slaughter operations at the Bil Mar Plant in Zeeland, MI, leaving many Michigan farmers without a way to bring their birds to market. After pursuing a few short-term contracts, 15 of these growers banned together and formed the Michigan Turkey Producers Co-Op as a way to continue processing theirs birds locally. With the help of a few outside investors, they purchased an old potato processing plant in Wyoming, MI and began renovations on what would be the newest turkey processing plant to be built in the United States in over 10 years. Starting from scratch, MTP engineers were able to incorporate the newest innovations into the plant - including a hand deboning line and a Controlled Atmosphere Stunning system. Slaughter operations began in March 2000, and within 6 weeks, production had ramped up to 14,000 birds a day.
From 2000 – 2005, Michigan Turkey Producers operated primarily in the commodity market, but moving into the value-added market had been the goal from the beginning. And after two very profitable years in 2004 and 2005, the capital needed to move in that direction became available. In 2005, Michigan Turkey Producers acquired an old distribution facility just a few miles from the original plant, and spent nine months converting it into a facility for ready-to-eat production. Every detail of the new plant was designed with cleanability and food safety in mind – from stainless steel walls and ceilings to complete segregation of Raw and Ready-to-Eat employees. It was also built with an eye towards the future, with plenty of room to add new machines to increase capacity and capabilities when the time came. And that time came sooner than expected - less than a year after production began the plant had already reached capacity and new ovens were added.
10 years later, ready-to-eat products have become the bread and butter of our business. We package not only under our Golden Legacy brand, but also under more than 60 national and local brands, and we distribute our products both nationally and internationally. Our reputation for high quality products is well known throughout the industry, and continues to open up opportunities in new categories, including Organic and pre-sliced.