Duncans Poultry started in 1987 when Matt Duncan was 13 and his brother Wade was 17. Matt had experience working at a feed store in Beebeetown. They tried raising chicks and had them processed at a facility in Nebraska, but did not think the processor did the best job. They then processed some of their grandparent's birds, and started doing more processing from there.
Early on, processing was completed in a small calf shed, which was quickly outgrown.
Their primary customers early on were farmers. Many customers at first preferred only slaughtering and defeathering, and would do the butchering on their own. Eventually Duncans began selling chicks and feed, and doing more butchering. In the 1990s, a boom in acreage development significantly increased demand for chickens. Many people moved out to the country and wanted small flocks of a few birds to a few dozen birds. This demand increased even further in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. Duncans thought it might be a temporary fad, but interest has yet to wane three years later.
Their processing is custom exempt, which means poultry processed here cannot be sold to restaurants, grocery stores, or other commercial. Producers can “pre-sell” birds, meaning producers must pick up their own birds after processing. In 2020 they finished a new processing facility that can be state or federally inspected. So far, however, most of their poultry processing is still done in the older facilities. The new facility is primarily being used for deer processing, though they plan to use the state-inspected facilities more in the future. The ‘official’ building brings additional regulations and requirements, including a state or federal inspector on site during inspections. This takes longer and producers need to pick up their birds the following day, versus the same day with custom-exempt processing. The benefits of the state-inspected processing include meat could be sold at commercial outlets across Iowa. If they chose to use a federal USDA inspector, meat could also be sold across state lines to Nebraska and other states through the CIS program. With the custom-exempt processing, Duncans can get through about 100 birds per hour. Each year they process 30,000 birds or more. They raise about 1,000 of their own birds each year, and their customers come from across Iowa, Nebraska, and other nearby states.
In addition to processing, Duncans sell a lot of chicks, feed, vegetable seeds, honey, and other farm supplies. Their nest boxes are becoming increasingly popular. They also have a level of knowledge of these products that most big-box store staff do not.
If you’re interested in raising poultry, contact Duncans! Even if you’re not, check out their farm store and museum with historic artifacts relating to poultry and farming. Store hours are 8am-2pm Monday thru Friday and 8am-Noon Saturdays. Check out their website and Facebook page to learn more.