COLUMBUS, Ohio–Lindsey Okuley has been interested in chickens since she was small. A fourth-year agricultural communications major at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), Okuley joined her local 4-H chapter in the fifth grade and worked with the animals, going on to show them for seven years.
When she arrived at Ohio State, she discovered CFAES’ Poultry Science Club (PSC) and has been a member since, serving in her second year as the club’s secretary. She is coordinating its annual Thanksgiving turkey sale.
“The great thing about the sale,” Okuley said, “is that it supports the Poultry Science Club. People are directly supporting students.”
The fundraiser, now in its 72nd year, raises money that allows the club to serve meals at meetings, host social events, conduct poultry-related career development events for the Ohio chapter of Future Farmers of America each spring; and, most importantly, send a group of students to the International Production & Processing Expo. The event is held in Georgia each year, and is the world’s largest display of all things pertaining to live bird production and poultry product (i.e. poultry meat and eggs) processing industries.
“It’s a really good opportunity for our members,” Okuley said. “They meet with at least one industry professional, one-on-one, and have an interview. They also get to meet other chapters from different universities, which is fun.”
Exposure to industry professionals is one of the ways that the PSC brings in new members. The other is through social events, Okuley said.
“We do a lot of socials,” she said. “We recently went to a Columbus Blue Jackets game and were able to cover the ticket costs for everyone. Since the pandemic, we’re trying to expand and do fun things. For people who are interested in poultry, the club’s a no-brainer. But if someone isn’t really interested in that side of things, we need to get you in the door and keep you around. So we use socials and a really good group of people to draw them in.”
Each year, the PSC takes about 300 orders for whole smoked turkeys, bone-in turkey breasts and whole free-range turkeys. Last year, 289 people ordered 471 products. The birds come from Bowman & Landes, a family-owned and -operated company near Dayton, Ohio.
“Every year, someone from Bowman & Landes comes to speak to the club,” Okuley said. “He talks about the quality of the products and the integrity of the company. All of the turkeys are free-range, meaning they have access to pasture. He’s shown us pictures. Sometimes the turkeys stay outside too long, he said. They’ll just be standing in the rain because they like it so much.”
The turkeys are all antibiotic-free and fed a vegetable diet, Okuley said.
“For some people, that really resonates,” she said. “They like to know what the meat goes through before it gets to the dinner plate.”
In addition to buying the bird they want, people ordering from the PSC can get suggestions for how to prepare it.
“When you pick up your order, we have a QR code people can scan for tips,” Okuley said. “People can also ask questions. Our adviser [Michael Cressman, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Sciences] does a lot of meat science and animal science classes on campus so he knows his stuff. It’s cool. You buy the bird, and you can know that when you pick it up, we’ll answer all your questions.”
The spirit of camaraderie is one of the things that makes the PSC special, Okuley said. It’s a group that welcomes people from all majors. Current members include students pursuing degrees in fashion and retail studies, psychology, and nursing, as well as the more traditional agricultural majors.
“It’s really cool to see where people come from, or what they’re interested in,” Okuley said. “They all come back together for some good food and some good people.”
Note: For those interested, the turkey sale is open until Nov. 8. More information is available on the club’s website.
Michael Cressman (Poultry Science Club advisor)