Turkey Talk with David Jaindl
David Jaindl remembers working on the family farm, heading out to work on weekends with his dad at the tender age of eight to tend to a brand of turkey that for decades has become as familiar as cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving dinner tables.
“I have such lasting memories when I look back on those days, everything from tending to the turkeys, shoveling manure to processing and packaging turkeys around the holidays,” he says. “Working on a farm is extra hard, maybe harder than most jobs. We would start at 7:30 in the morning and keep at it until all the work was done.”
By the time Jaindl was 14 he was working after school and weekends, sometimes 45 hours a week during the school year in an effort to learn the family business, along the way developing an appreciation for the hard work and dedication that goes into producing a consistently high quality product.
The Jaindl Family Farm all started with the five young turkeys Jaindl’s grandfather, John, bought for his dad in 1932 at a Lancaster County fair.
“My dad was five then, and the turkeys started out as more of a hobby,” says Jaindl, president and owner of Jaindl Farms since 2005. “As he went through high school he cultivated more turkeys each year. His goal was to raise and breed the best turkey he could.”
After Fred Jaindl returned from military service, he partnered with his father to breed and grow turkeys, with a foundation stock known as the Lovelace bronze, a classic U.S variety, to help
create a broad breasted ‘consumer friendly’ bird with shorter legs and a lot more white meat per pound, more than other commercial turkeys on the market. The Jaindl “Grand Champion” turkey label was earned in 1959, when Fred Jaindl won every show entered sponsored by the National Turkey Federation during the 1950s.
When Fred Jaindl purchased his father’s interest in the family business in 1965, they were raising 200,000 birds a year.
Today the Jaindl family raises and sells 750,000 turkeys a year on its 12,000-acre farm in Lehigh, Northampton, Berks and Schuylkill counties. They’re distributed from the operation in North Whitehall Township to loyal customers locally and across the country. It’s the largest totally integrated turkey operation in the world and the largest independent agricultural business in the Lehigh Valley.
Jaindl turkeys, raised in 219 open pole barns, receive a consistent diet of corn, grown right on the farm, and soy bean meal as the protein portion of their diet along with vitamins and minerals.
The Jaindl family insists on cleanliness in the barns to help ensure healthy turkeys, which are ready for market between 20 and 34 weeks.
Their route to the dinner table begins each fall when around 22,000 hens and 2,200 tom breeders are selected to produce the following year’s offspring.
Most of the turkeys are sold as a Jaindl “Grand Champion,” but Jaindl also custom packages for Bell and Evans and grocery chains such as Wegmans, Whole Foods and Stew Leonard’s and distributes turkeys from Maine to Florida and as far west as Colorado and California. In 2010, Jaindl began exporting turkeys to Japan. To tell if the turkey is a Jaindl, look on the packaging for “grown and processed by Jaindl Farms” or check the metal clip on the bag of the turkey. If it reads “P-460” it’s a Jaindl bird.
A Jaindl Farms turkey has been part of the White House Thanksgiving tradition since the Kennedy administration.
In addition to presidents, there’s a long list of celebrities that regularly receive a Jaindl turkey.
“We’ve received very nice compliments from Clint Eastwood and George W. Bush,” Jaindl says in a very modest tone.
Starting with Thanksgiving, the holiday season is by far the busiest time of the year for Jaindl and his family members and employees who will prepare the turkeys, weighing from 8 to 40 pounds, sold fresh at the farm’s retail store on Coffeetown Road in Orefield in November and December and in grocery chains.
About 40,000 organic birds are grown each year, and Jaindl operates two other farms that grow free range turkeys.
“We are also proud to package turkeys for food banks in Washington, D.C., New York, New Jersey and in the Lehigh Valley,” Jaindl says.
With 100 full-time employees and seasonal help for the holidays, it’s still a family operation involving Jaindl’s children – Adam, Jake, Luke, Josh and Joanna – his sister, Cathy Jaindl-Leuthe, and nephew John, Jr., who is the assistant manager on the grain farm.
“We have a lot of good managers within the operation, including a 53-year veteran Richard Gildner, and a lot of family to help manage the operation,” Jaindl says.
Asked what drives him every day, he offers a very holistic, agrarian reply.
“I just enjoy watching things grow,” says Jaindl, a Parkland High School graduate who enjoys surveying the corn fields, inspecting the turkeys every day and overseeing Schantz Orchards – a 300-acre orchard that annually grows more than 50,000 bushels of fruits including apples, peaches, pears and cherries.
“We grow everything ourselves. There’s just something very satisfying about working on a farm. It keeps everything in perspective.”
And his favorite way to enjoy a Jaindl turkey?
“I like breaded turkey cutlets, and no one makes them better than my wife, Jackie, except maybe my mother,” he says.
For more information, visit jaindl.com/turkeys
Jaindl Family Turkey Cutlet Recipe
- Crisco shortening for frying (enough to make ¼ inch liquid in pan)
- 3 Eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs or panko
- 2 boneless skinless turkey breasts (sliced to ½ inch pieces)
- 1 qt. 14oz. V8 Original Vegetable juice
- 3 tbsp. flour
- 1 stick (8 tbsp.) butter
- 3 tbsp. sugar (sweeten to taste)
Take 3 bowls. In the first bowl put the flour, in the second bowl put the whisked eggs, and in the third bowl put the bread crumbs.
Dredge each cutlet, first flour, second egg and finally bread crumbs.
Take cutlet and fry on medium heat on both sides until they are a nice crispy brown.
In 3-quart sauce pan melt the stick of butter. Add the flour slowly to melted butter until it makes a nice pasty consistency. Add the V8 juice until it is the thickness you prefer. It will thicken some while it is cooking. Add sugar to taste. Pour sauce into gravy bowl to be served.
When your turkey cutlets are served – add sauce to your liking.