Pioneer in Poultry Research
The facility honors the late Stanley L. Balloun, a former ISU animal science professor and an international expert, pioneering researcher and leader in the science of turkey feed. Balloun received his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from ISU.
He is attributed with growing the demand and use of soybean meal in poultry feed.
“Dad’s work, and others in animal science, paved the real turning point in poultry nutrition,” says Jim Balloun, Stanley’s son. Jim and his wife Julie provided the lead gift for the facility.
“Through extension research, dad and his colleagues established more precise meal acid requirements for growth in broilers and turkeys. They also created protein requirements for turkeys and showed that heating soybeans in a particular way improved the effectiveness of soybeans as part of the poultry diet," Jim says.
Before Balloun’s extensive research, fish and meat meal were the primary components in poultry feed.
Today, more than 950 million bushels of soybeans are included in poultry feed in the U.S.
For perspective, Iowa raised 655 million bushels of soybeans in 2022, a 140% increase from Iowa soybean production in the 1950s.
The Iowa Turkey Federation, headquartered in Ames; West Liberty Foods, headquartered in West Liberty; and Tyson Foods, headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas, also invested in the Stanley L. Balloun Turkey Teaching and Research Facility.
“West Liberty Foods and our grower-owners appreciate all Iowa State University does to benefit the turkey industry,” says Brandon Achen, president of West Liberty Foods and an Iowa State alum. “We trust the new facility will help Iowa State remain a leader in providing training and research for our industry.” West Liberty Foods was formed in 1996 by 47 Iowa turkey growers. The company and its grower/owners are committed to animal health and welfare while delivering superior-quality turkeys.
“We are excited about this partnership with Iowa State University and the Iowa Turkey Federation for this new research and teaching (turkey) facility,” says Russ Dierenfield, group manufacturing director for Tyson Foods. “This facility will help equip students with the appropriate industry training to join the workforce upon graduation. We support the growth of our next generation of leaders within the turkey industry and believe this facility will create a hub for the future workforce in the agriculture space.” Tyson Foods, Inc. is one of the world’s largest food companies and a recognized leader in protein. Founded in 1935 by John W. Tyson, Tyson Foods has grown under four generations of family leadership.
Though backed by several funders, farmers were the driving force behind the facility, explains Gretta Irwin, executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation.
“The reason this facility began was because turkey farmers wanted to understand how to care for their turkeys even better,” Irwin says. “Farmers really had no place to ask questions and get good answers. So, farmers came together and invested money into this facility.”
Iowa turkey farmers grew 161,000 turkeys when the feed research started in 1952. Today, Iowa ranks seventh in the nation for turkey production, raising approximately 12 million turkeys annually. Iowa’s turkey industry supports more than 38,000 jobs and is responsible for more than $10 billion annually in the state’s economic activity.
Tanner Volkmann, a recent ISU graduate, serves as the manager of the new facility. Volkmann was raised on a turkey farm near Jewell.
“With this being the only turkey facility of its kind at a major university in the country, Iowa State will continue to attract top-tier students who are interested in agriculture,” Volkmann says. “I expect the possibilities with this new endeavor to be endless.”