#FlashbackFriday What makes a turkey a turkey

Ron Kean, Extension Poultry Specialist
Department of Animal Science
University of Wisconsin-Madision
Division of Extension
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

(608) 262-8807, (608) 263-4300

3:06 – Total time

0:17 – The story of why turkey is called turkey
1:03 – Poultry Science Club
1:18 – Poultry club turkey sale
1:43 – Who joins a poultry club
2:23 – Career expectations in the poultry business
2:56 – Lead out



Sevie Kenyon: Ron, just to start out with; what makes a turkey a turkey?

Ron Kean: It’s kind of an interesting story and I’ve had people ask me this: how a bird native to North America became a turkey, which, of course, is a country in Asia. Probably one of the main theories is that Europeans, when they saw this bird, thought that they were a guinea. Of course, that doesn’t make a lot of sense but a guinea to them was called a turkey because the guinea, though it came from Africa, had been brought to Europe by traders who were most likely from Turkey. So they were called turkeys, so when they saw the North American bird they thought it was a large turkey. That’s a long, convoluted story but I think that’s probably the most likely reason.

Sevie Kenyon: Ron, tell us a little bit about the students here in your Poultry Science Club.

Ron Kean: Poultry Science Club has been around for 50 years or more. It’s a small club here on campus but it does work to give the students who have an interest in poultry a place to go and meet.

Sevie Kenyon: What kind of projects and activities does the poultry club do?

Ron Kean: A large fundraiser for them is their annual turkey sale. For many, many years there were turkeys raised as part of a research project here on campus so we would process those turkeys. We don’t have turkeys here at the farm any more and so we purchase turkeys but we still sell them and it’s still a pretty popular event.

Sevie Kenyon: What kind of student is interested in the Poultry Science Club?

Ron Kean: Some of the students are poultry science majors and we still have that as a major here. A lot of others are just students that either grew poultry when they were kids, or were in 4H [or] things like that and still have an interest, or they have some friends who are interested in poultry and get kind of roped in. We have some who actually have some psychology majors; they are somewhat interested in animal behavior and of course there’s a lot of tie-in between human behavior and psychology and animal behavior, so we do have some students with that interest.

Sevie Kenyon: If you major in poultry science, what kind of career expectations are there?

Ron Kean: There’s a lot of demand for poultry science majors. You know, many people think about raising chickens as a sort of a backyard thing but the poultry industry is really very integrated, very technologically savvy, so there are some companies that really look to hire our students. You know, we have production jobs, there are jobs in marketing, certainly, there are jobs in processing, lots of affiliated jobs with nutrition and pharmaceuticals and things like that. So there really are a lot of good career options.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Ron Kean, Department of Animal Science, University of Wisconsin Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, WI and I’m Sevie Kenyon.