Levi King introduces his son, Michael, to a turkey poult being raised for holiday meals.

Poultry Kings

Ohio’s Darke County is on the Indiana state line. It’s flat, right for grain farming and one of the largest agricultural counties in Ohio. It’s where William and Marilyn King married in the early 1980s and began raising chickens and five spirited boys who arrived within the first 10 years of their marriage.

“My parents were always looking for ways to keep us boys busy,” said Ohio Farm Bureau member Levi King, the fourth son. So in 1994 when he was 6, the Kings built a 20-foot by 30-foot building and started their own custom poultry processing business. It might not be the type of activity urban families would consider for their children, but “farm-raised” kids know that pitching in and being involved is just what you do. It also can be the springboard that leads to a farm career.

These days, Levi along with his parents, youngest brother, Reuben, and a crew of five full-time and 12 part-time employees, raise about 50,000 chickens and 900 holiday turkeys. “Since we’ve added on to our building so that it’s now 7,100 square feet,” said Levi, “we can process the birds we raise and triple that amount because 70 percent of our business is providing the service for other producers in the area.”

The King’s processing plant is a state-inspected facility, which means that an inspector is on site every day looking at every carcass. The Kings also work with many government agencies and are currently working with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to install an updated system for waste water.

King’s Poultry Farm raises Cornish Rock Cross hens. “They’re bred to grow fast and are one of the most efficient chickens to raise for meat,” said Levi. The flocks are barn-raised or “free range in the barn,” as Levi prefers. “This protects them from predators and allows us more control over the atmosphere in extreme heat and cold. I think we provide them a humane farm life.”

Turkeys are raised on pasture, and all are fed a diet of grains including corn, protein-rich soybeans, plus vitamins and minerals.

“To do a good comparison of our chickens versus a national brand, you need to focus on the processing,” he said. “Our facility runs a line speed of seven birds a minute compared with a large company that does 160.” King’s Poultry Farm follows the same butchering and cleaning standards as national poultry companies.

“Because of our low volume, our chickens are clean to look at—inside and out,” said Levi. “If you look at grocery labels, lots of chickens include retained water. We also have to chill in water and do weight checks but our birds have less than 6 percent water.” And that has a profound effect on the flavor by not washing out or diluting the natural juices.

What would Levi King like people to try when it comes to chicken? “The dark meat, like a drumstick or a thigh, has more flavor,” he said, “and when you buy a whole chicken and learn to cut it up yourself, you get more,” such as an economical variety of cuts and bones for stock and soup making. “Skins and bones add flavor to everything,” he adds. When it comes to chicken from King’s Poultry Farm, he wants people to know that it really “tastes like chicken.” And that’s a very good thing.

King’s Poultry Farm
8091 Horatio Harris Creek Road
Bradford, Ohio 45308

Presidential Turkey

This year, Ohio-based Cooper Farms is raising the turkeys that will be taken to the White House and pardoned by President Obama before Thanksgiving. Learn more about the turkey flock being raised for this tradition.