Maple Leaf Farms endowment funds poultry science chair at Purdue University

October 1st, 2018

By Doug LeDuc | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

Access to world-class research has helped Maple Leaf Farms ascend to industry leadership and its founding family is making sure that continues with a $1 million gift to Purdue University.

The gift establishes the first endowed poultry science chair in the university’s college of agriculture. The new Terry and Sandra Tucker Chair in Poultry Science will conduct research, education and outreach in an industry Purdue says already has a $4 billion impact on Indiana’s economy.

The new faculty member will also help Purdue leverage research it already has underway focused on important poultry industry issues including physiology, immunology, disease and well-being.

The son-in-law and daughter of Maple Leaf founder Donald Wentzel both graduated from the university, which Maple Leaf CEO Terry Tucker said in a statement has been “a huge part of our family and business.”

“We understand the importance of poultry science research because it impacts our business on a daily basis,” he said. “We are honored to be able to give back to the university and encourage research that fuels Indiana agriculture.”

The Leesburg-based duck company has a longstanding relationship with several college of agriculture departments at Purdue and has benefited along with the rest of the poultry industry from working with world class researchers there in the areas of food science, agricultural economics and animal sciences, said Janelle Deatsman, Maple Leaf communications manager.

“Purdue University scientists have contributed to our food safety and product development programs, as well as our animal husbandry and nutrition programs, to name a few. And, Purdue economists have helped determine the significant economic impact that the poultry industry has on the state of Indiana,” she said.

The Tuckers had been “in discussions with the Purdue Agricultural Advancement Office for a few years about establishing a lasting legacy at the university that would benefit the poultry industry in Indiana,” she said.

“Establishing the first-ever endowed position within the department of animal sciences and ensuring the position was dedicated to poultry research and extension seemed like an ideal fit for the Tucker family’s vision.”

The chair was named in recognition of the family’s gift, which will be matched through a college of agriculture endowed chair challenge matching gift program, to establish a $2 million supporting endowment.

“Indiana is a national leader in the poultry industry, ranking first in duck production, third in egg production and fourth in turkey production. Furthermore, the poultry industry contributes more than $4.25 billion annually to the Indiana economy,” Deatsman said.

“By having an endowed position at Purdue University dedicated to conducting research for the duck industry, and other facets of poultry production, our company and other companies like ours can work with a researcher who understands and has a vested interest in our industry and our region,” she said.

“Purdue’s new poultry scientist may conduct research and outreach in a number of key areas beneficial to duck and poultry production including poultry physiology, nutrition, or animal behavior and welfare,” she said.

Maple Leaf produces 10 million ducks annually and sells duck and chicken products in all 50 states, as well as 40 export regions. It employs about 850 U.S. workers, and partners with more than 150 farm families to produce ducks on their own family farms.

Food service industry business accounts for about 65 percent of the company’s annual sales, with another 25 percent coming from retail grocery business and 10 percent from export sales to more than 30 countries.

The company’s international division has Chinese and eastern European operations, which it says help meet global market demand for duck in world regions where it is a dietary staple. It does this through its integrated duck production system, INDUX.

Duck product sales are about 90 percent of the company’s business, with chicken strips, nuggets and stuffed entrees under the Milford Valley brand accounting for about 10 percent.

The company sells innovative natural animal health products and services through a MLF biotech division, and its Eurasia Feather Co. subsidiary markets down and other feather products worldwide to manufacturers, interior designers and institutions.