Turks Poultry Production

August 2017

A look around Turk’s Poultry in Foxton, and the business of processing 125,000 chickens a week for domestic and overseas markets.

Poultry is New Zealand's most popular meat. Over the past 20 years consumption has increased from 14kg per person each year to more than 36kg. New Zealanders are estimated to consume nearly 86 million chickens a year. 

Ron Turk is the owner of a poultry business that supplies around 8% of New Zealand’s chicken meat needs. It is one of only two large-scale family owned businesses in the country.

Ron’s father began Turk’s Poultry. They started out as an egg producer but the business has evolved to farming chickens for meat. The Foxton-based plant processes around 125,000 chickens a week.

Turk’s employs around 210 people.  The staff work in IT, compliance (quality), logistics, trucking, and engineering, along with staff who run the farms and feeding, as well as production and processing.

There is a focus on vertical integration at the company. The business produces its own chicken feed. About 500 tonnes of chicken feed is made and consumed a week using locally produced maize. The company also has its own fleet of trucks that take the product around the North Island.

Ron Turk is in partnership with two other local businesses in seven new free-range sheds each producing around 30,000 chickens a week. The sheds are 140 metres long and 16m wide (2240sq metres).

A manager and two other staff run the chicken growing operation. Day old chicks arrive and grow for up to 42 days before they are processed.

Between the six growing weeks a week is reserved for cleaning the shed. The rotation between seven sheds means each week a shed of 30,000 chickens is sent to the market. During that time food and water is available on demand to the growing chickens.

When the shed is empty of chickens – the wood shavings are removed and the shed is washed clean and sanitised before new wood shavings are put down.

The feeding system is automated and sophisticated. Computers in each shed control the lights, feeding and temperature and deliver information like the average weight gain of the chickens in each shed. The weight of the chickens is measured by weigh stations on the floor of the barn.

Entering any shed requires a sanitised foot-bath and there is a line which can only be crossed by people wearing overalls, clean gumboots and a hairnet and who have sterilised their hands.

Each shed has a concrete floor with shavings placed on the top. The buildings are steel framed and the walls and roof are made of insulation panels. In the early stages of their growth the sheds are heated to 32 degrees – as the feathers develop the temperature is dropped.

The shed has large shutters to release heat and large portals for the birds to roam outside in the grass runs - once they are well feathered at about 19 days old.

Ron says the chickens are fussy about when they want to head outside.

"The chickens go outside early in the morning, they like cloudy days. They don't like bright sunshine and will go inside, they are scared of being a meal for a hawk so we put netting over their run which also cuts the brightness of the sun. We are still trying ways to encourage more birds further out from the shed."


The breed of chicken is Cobb. Males and females are raised together.

Modern production of chicken meat is one of the most efficient methods of producing animal protein. The white-feathered birds with red comb and wattles have been selectively bred to be some of the world's most efficient broilers. They put on weight fast, converting low cost feed into high growth.

Ron says the genetic selection to produce birds with more breast meat led to some leg problems - but that issue has been solved.


Ron says they like the growing farms to be close to the processing plant so the chickens don't have to travel far. The furthest farm is 35 minutes away, and he says he wouldn't want the distance to be any further.

The processing plant is highly mechanized and Ron says they are regularly reinvesting in plant and machinery. One machine removed breast meat another does primary cuts. A small team does processing by hand for specific, specialized orders. The factory also produces chicken mince and a range of chicken small-goods such as sausages, patties and schnitzel.