Happy Thanksgiving: Turkey Facts as a Tribute to Those who Gave their Lives for our Stomachs
Whether you are eating turkey or tofurkey this Thanksgiving, you cannot deny the great sacrifice that turkeys are making to fill dinner plates across the nation. I figured I would honor their sacrifice here on the eve of thanksgiving, with some fun turkey facts.
- More than 45 million turkeys are eaten in the U.S. at Thanksgiving (one sixth of all turkeys sold in the U.S. each year). American per capita consumption of turkeys has soared from 8.3 pounds in 1975 to 18.5 pounds in 1997. Ten years later, the number has dropped slightly in 2007 to 17.5 pounds (more tofurkey?)
- The turkey and the bald eagle were each considered as the national symbol of America. Benjamin Franklin was one of those who argued vehemently on behalf of the turkey. Franklin felt the turkey, although “vain and silly”, was a better choice than the bald eagle, whom he felt was “a coward”.
- 250 million turkeys were raised in 2008, together weighed 7.9 billion pounds and were valued at $4.5 billion.
- In 2002, retail sales of turkey was approximately $3.6 billion. Forecasts for 2009 expect sales to reach $3.8 billion.
- Age matters: Old, large males are preferable to young toms (males) as tom meat is stringy. The opposite is true for females: old hens are tougher birds than their younger counterparts.
- A turkey under sixteen weeks of age is called a fryer, while a young roaster is five to seven months old.
- Turkeys are the only poultry native to the Western Hemisphere. Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) live in woods in parts of North America and are the largest game birds in the area. They spend their days foraging for food like acorns, seeds, small insects and wild berries.
- Turkeys have great hearing, but no external ears. They have excellent visual acuity, see in color, and a wide field of vision, which makes sneaking up on them difficult.
- The wild turkey we usually see in photos or pictures is not the same as the domestic turkey that we serve at Thanksgiving.
- Domesticated turkeys cannot fly. Wild turkeys, however, can fly for short distances at speeds up to 55 miles per hour.
- Turkeys sometimes spend the night in trees.
- Turkeys can have heart attacks.
- They grunt, make a “gobble gobble sound” and strut about shaking their feathers. This fancy turkey trot helps the male attract females (also called “hens”) for mating.
- The ballroom dance known as the Turkey Trot was named for the short, jerky steps a turkey makes.
Image Credit: stevevoght on Flickr