Turkey Fact for Thanksgiving

  • Benjamin Franklin argued that the turkey and not the bald eagle should be the symbol for America.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the U.S. at Thanksgiving—that’s one sixth of all turkeys sold in the U.S. each year.
  • In 2011, more than 248 million turkeys were expected to be raised with an average liveweight per bird of 28 pounds with nearly 6 billion pounds of turkey processed.
  • In 2002, retail sales of turkey was approximately $3.6 billion. In 2010, sales reached $4.37 billion.
  • Age is a determining factor in taste. 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.
  • 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 breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere.
  • Turkeys have great hearing, but no external ears. They can also see in color, and have excellent visual acuity and a wide field of vision (about 270 degrees), which makes sneaking up on them difficult. However, turkeys have a poor sense of smell (what’s cooking?), but an excellent sense of taste.
  • Domesticated turkeys cannot fly. Wild turkeys, however, can fly for short distances at speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They can also reach speeds of 25 miles per hour on the ground.
  • Turkeys sometimes spend the night in trees.
  • Turkeys can have heart attacks: turkeys in fields near the Air Force test areas over which the sound barrier was broken were known to drop dead from the shock of passing jets
  • The ballroom dance known as the Turkey Trot was named for the short, jerky steps a turkey makes.
  • Don’t be disappointed if the turkey at the petting zoo refuses to gobble — it’s probably a female, which is called a hen. Male turkeys are called gobblers, because they are the only ones that can make that adorable gobbling sound. Each male turkey has his own unique gobbling “technique,” which he combines with strutting to attract potential mates. Female turkeys communicate through clucks and small, chirp-like noises.
  • If you feel groggy after an old-fashioned Thanksgiving meal, the bird on your plate may be partially to blame. Turkey meat contains tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps regulate sleep.
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