SAN ANTONIO – Bill Prestage, founder of Prestage Farms, Clinton, N.C., was awarded the National Turkey Federation (N.T.F.) Lifetime Achievement Award for his “long-term, unselfish dedication to creative innovation in turkey production.” He received the award during the N.T.F. Annual Convention in San Antonio.

Bill’s three sons, John, Ron and Scott, executives with Prestage Farms, discussed how their father grew his single turkey operation into a fully integrated business during the award presentation.

In 1967, Bill Prestage began working in the turkey business when he purchased a share in Carroll’s Mill, where he pioneered new and innovative production practices, such as moving the birds inside to better control their environment and provide optimum growth opportunities.

“Dad perfected this new way of growing turkeys and then carried these practices into the swine production business and within a few years the company had become a significant player in both poultry and swine production,” Scott Prestage said,

Bill Prestage sold his share in Carroll’s Foods In 1983 and went back into the turkey business with his wife, Marsha ,and sons, John and Scott, to create Prestage Farms. With 22 employees and 18 contract growers, Prestage Farms produced 8 million lbs. of turkey in its first year of operation.

Prestage’s turkey operation ascended to new heights in 1993 with the construction of the world’s largest single-stage hatchery and the capability of setting up to 650,000 eggs per week. The turkey division of Prestage Farms expanded into South Carolina in 1994 when Ron Prestage joined the family business.

“Dad’s turkey production efforts were brought full circle in 2000 with the purchase of the Rocco turkey processing plant in St. Pauls, N.C., and the beginning of the development of a Prestage Foods Label,” said John Prestage. Today, Prestage Farms produces 450 million lbs. of turkey and 750 million lbs. of pork annually. Prestage employs more than 1,800 associates and contracts with more than 700 farm families.

“His [Bill’s] humility and commitment to the community is visibly in the many honors he has won for volunteerism and distinction,” John Prestage said.

Bill Prestage has served as president of N.T.F. and the North Carolina Turkey Federation, as well as on the Board of Directors for North Carolina Natural Gas and Smithfield Foods.

“The Lifetime Achievement Award is for those who have given their lives to the turkey industry and who have left better off for their efforts -- that sums up our father perfectly,” John concluded.

N.T.F. initiated the Lifetime Achievement Award program at its 1946 Annual Convention. To date, 65 recipients have been recognized with this honor. Past recipients include turkey industry leaders, executives of national and state poultry/turkey organizations, allied industry leaders, government officials, university professors, researchers and journalists.