Thanks­giv­ing plans: How to get a cov­eted bird from the Penn State turkey sale

Centre Daily Times (Sunday) - - Business - BY HOLLY RID­DLE Holly Rid­dle is a free­lance food, travel and life­style writer. She can be reached at

There’s no bet­ter place to buy a fresh turkey this Thanks­giv­ing sea­son than from the Penn State Poul­try Sci­ence Club. Draw­ing long lines of hun­dreds of hun­gry shop­pers, the club’s one-day-only, first come, first served, turkey sale is an an­nual tra­di­tion stretch­ing back decades.

Phillip John Clauer, an as­sis­tant teach­ing pro­fes­sor at Penn State and ad­viser to the Poul­try Sci­ence Club, said the sale’s ap­peal comes from the fresh­ness of the tur­keys.

“All the birds are har­vested by the stu­dents a week prior to Thanks­giv­ing. They slaugh­ter the birds Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day, Fri­day, maybe Satur­day if we get be­hind. ... They’ve never been ex­posed to ex­treme cold tem­per­a­tures at all,” he said. “The fresh birds you buy in the store are typ­i­cally al­lowed to be taken down to 26 de­grees Fah- ren­heit, and that means the outer layer of skin and tis­sue can par­tially freeze. That tends to dry that area of the skin a lit­tle more than you’d have on a fresh-dressed bird that’s never been ex­posed to tem­per­a­tures that low.”

The Poul­try Sci­ence Club takes its birds down to the 36-40 de­gree range, mak­ing it eas­ier to keep the turkey ten­der while cook­ing, Clauer said.


Be­fore the tur­keys are har­vested, they’re in­volved with a re­search or in­dus­try project at Penn State and then do­nated to the Poul­try Sci­ence Club to raise un­til the point of the sale. Ac­cord­ing to Clauer, the birds are raised at the Poul­try Ed­u­ca­tion and Re­search Cen­ter on Penn State’s cam­pus, us­ing con­ven­tional meth­ods.

Since Clauer ar­rived at Penn State 17 years ago, he said the sale has be­come even more pop­u­lar, par­tially thanks to the sale’s first come, first served sys­tem. Since switch­ing to this sys­tem ver­sus tak­ing or­ders, he said the club has al­ways sold out of its hun­dreds of birds, ex­cept for one year, when they had some par­tic­u­larly large, dif­fi­cult-to-sell tur­keys. Ac­cord­ing to Clauer, con­sumers pre­fer a 16-24pound bird.

“Any­thing big­ger than that,” he said, “you can only sell so many. We sell about a cou­ple dozen big­ger than that each year, but that’s about it.”


Clauer’s main tip for lo­cals look­ing to snag one of the cov­eted tur­keys? Ar­rive to the sale early. This year’s sale takes place Nov. 19, start­ing at 11 a.m. at the Penn State Meats Lab on Porter Road, be­tween the Vis­i­tor’s Cen­ter and Medler Field.

“There’ll be a line out there, peo­ple sit­ting in chairs and in their cars, as early as 7 a.m.,” Clauer said. “At 9 a.m., we try to open the doors to the au­di­to­rium so peo­ple can come in­side and sit down. At that time we hand out a card with a num­ber on it.”

At 11 a.m., they call peo­ple to the front of the room by ticket num­ber.

“You pick (your) birds, the sizes you want, and we keep go­ing through the num­bers un­til we run out,” Clauer said.

Buy­ers are lim­ited to three tur­keys each. If you re­ceive a ticket num­ber that’s un­der 200, you have a pretty good chance of get­ting the size and num­ber of tur­keys you want, Clauer said.

For many, the event is a so­cial oc­ca­sion.

“Some peo­ple only see each other once a year at the turkey sale,” Clauer said. “So peo­ple will sit there, have a good time, talk, carry on and so forth. Peo­ple come in, so­cial­ize, read the news­pa­per, bring their lap­top.”

The tur­keys go for $2 per pound.

“We don’t try to price the birds so high that the av­er­age per­son who’s get­ting a turkey any­way can’t af­ford it. We want them avail­able to who­ever needs them,” Clauer said. “We’re try­ing to pro­vide a good ser­vice and come up with a fundraiser that works for the pub­lic and this one seems to work well.”


The Poul­try Sci­ence Club makes about $12,000– $15,000 from the sale.

In ad­di­tion to the funds, which help pro­mote the club’s mission of build­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and skills for stu­dents en­ter­ing the poul­try in­dus­try, the event also helps the stu­dents get some hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence in mar­ket­ing, or­ga­ni­za­tion, sales and cus­tomer re­la­tions.

For more in­for­ma­tion on this year’s sale and the Poul­try Sci­ence Club, visit poul­try-sci­ence/ac­tiv­i­ties/ fall-ac­tiv­i­ties/fall-turkey­har­vest.

Cen­tre Daily Times, file

Penn State Poul­try Sci­ence Club’s an­nual turkey sale will be held Nov. 19.

Cen­tre Daily Times, file

A long line of peo­ple waited to pur­chase fresh tur­keys at the 2014 Penn State Poul­try Sci­ence Club turkey sale.

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