Poultry Science Club lets members fly high

Emily Bartlett
December 07, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — At 8:30 a.m. on the Monday before Thanksgiving, students in Penn State’s Poultry Science Club gathered at the University’s Meats Lab, across from Beaver Stadium. Numerous cars had already begun to fill the parking lot, full of turkey buyers eager to hop in line. At 9:30 a.m., the students handed out numbered tickets and began to allow customers to come out of the cold and fill the building’s auditorium. Finally, at 11 a.m., customers were able to redeem their tickets for a fresh, never-frozen bird. The mood was a mixture of enthusiasm, excitement and exhaustion.

Each year, poultry and avian science students raise, harvest and prepare turkeys for the sale. Profits fund the group’s costs and activities for the rest of the year, and members are required to participate in the yearly “harvest” to receive funding for club-related travel and events. Each student contributes at least eight hours of work preparing turkeys for the harvest.

poultry club turkey

Phillip Clauer, adviser to the club, addresses the crowds waiting to buy a turkey produced by Penn State poultry students at their annual sale on Nov. 21, 2016.

IMAGE: Michael Houtz

“Last year we processed 535 turkeys in three days, and we raised over $20,000 for our club,” said club president Matt Hackenberg, a senior from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. “With that money we get to participate in a number of free trips. So, for example, we will be going to Atlanta for the International Poultry and Processing Expo in January. We also volunteer for the White House Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn. We do poultry judging in different locations — recently I’ve been to Arkansas and Louisiana. We also do fall and spring industry tours — this year, we toured Highline Hatchery, Wenger’s Feed Mill and one of Wenger’s cage-free layer barns.”

His involvement with the club has paid off. “When I graduate or before I even graduate, I’ll have multiple job offers,” Hackenberg said. “Instead of worrying about whether I’m going to have a job after graduation, I’m going to be more worried about choosing where I want to be.”

poultry science club

Matt Hackenberg, a senior from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, serves as president of the Poultry Science Club.

IMAGE: Emily Bartlett

The Poultry Science Club rewards ambitious participants. They are given numerous opportunities to network, gain skills and explore the diversity of specialties available in the poultry business. Every year, the poultry science program invites the club to participate in the Pennsylvania Poultry Sales and Service Conference and Northeastern Conference on Avian Diseases hosted at the The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, which draws representatives from major poultry companies around the country. At least a dozen poultry companies also attend the College of Agricultural Sciences' Career Fair to look for interns and to fill a wide range of job positions. All that networking translates into jobs and internships.

“Here at Penn State the poultry and avian science program has nearly 100 percent job placement,” said Kevin Brubaker, the group’s treasurer, a sophomore from Port Trevorton, Pennsylvania, who wants to work in a hatchery or processing plant. “There are careers in live production, the egg and broiler industry, in processing plants, upper management, vaccine, genetics and feed sales.”

Though their goals vary, the members of the club have formed strong bonds to carry them through their college experience and beyond. Some, like Brubaker, are from poultry-raising families, but many are not. Logan Karchner, a senior majoring in animal science from Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, was raised on a dairy farm and developed an interest after his parents purchased an old poultry facility. From his point of view, joining the club was a way to meet people and to explore his options within the agricultural industry.

“You come here and you get to socialize with really friendly people,” he explained. “I was on the poultry judging team and we came in first in the national championship for the second year in a row. I was second individual overall this year, so it’s definitely been worth it being in this club.”

Mike Hulet, an associate professor of poultry science in the College of Agricultural Sciences, who often interacts with the club, agrees.

“I’ve been here for 23 years and have seen kids from all kinds of backgrounds find a home here,” he said. “There are a lot of majors and interests, but they all come together as friends, and it’s a friendship that continues on as a lot of them go into the industry.”

Alison Ferver, a sophomore animal science major from Earleville, Maryland, has minors in poultry and avian science, Spanish and international agriculture. She wants prospective students to know about the advantages a poultry focus and participation in club activities can deliver. As the public relations officer, Ferver organizes the club’s involvement in sales and service, orders apparel for members, and promotes the club at events like the president’s tailgate. As scrapbook chair, she coordinates members’ contributions to the club’s scrapbook, which is entered into a contest at the International Poultry and Processing Expo and wins nearly every year.

“The cover’s always insane,” she said. “This year it’s going to be an incubation scene with real chick noises, a fan, lights and ‘chicks’ hatching.”

poultry science club

Alison Ferver, a sophomore from Earleville, Maryland, is the Poultry Science Club’s public relations chair and scrapbooking chair.

IMAGE: Emily Bartlett

For students from rural backgrounds and small towns, University Park can feel like a big place. But Ferver said the college, and the poultry program in particular, made her feel welcome right away. Although she raised broiler chickens and started a small farm with her sisters as part of a 4-H project, she is not from an agricultural background.

“I met Phil Clauer, our adviser, on the day I visited Penn State as a senior in high school,” she remembered. “I didn’t have an appointment, but the animal science people immediately made time for me. I also found out that, as an out-of-state student, a poultry focus would make me eligible for some great scholarships. That was a huge incentive.”

Ferver now plans to go to graduate school to pursue study in poultry genetics and had her first internship with a poultry genetics company over the summer.

Students of any major and year who have a background or interest in poultry or animal science are welcome to join the Poultry Science Club.

“I think the best thing to do would be to show up to one of our meetings and just get involved,” said Hackenberg, who joined the club a little over a year ago when a friend suggested he help with the turkey harvest. “We don’t have any dues, because we work hard to be able to do that. We have dinner at every meeting, usually a really well-cooked meal, and we do a lot of other community service stuff, so you should feel free to come see what we’re all about.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 07, 2016