Monday, November 20, 2023

Americans will consume more than 46 million turkeys for Thanksgiving; here are interesting facts about the bird

Only male turkeys or "toms" gobble. Females make a clicking
noise. (Penn State photo via Successful Farming)
In three days, many Americans will set their tables with an array of delectable food, but in many families, the turkey is the centerpiece of dinner delights. This Thursday, over 46 million turkeys will be consumed by Americans. But how much do you know about turkeys beyond the bird's signature "gobbling" calls? Jodi Henke and Chelsea Dinterman of Successful Farming serve up a plateful of conversational facts about Thanksgiving's farmed and wild turkeys. 

Hunters beware: Turkeys "can see movement almost a hundred yards away and also have a wide field of vision, which makes sneaking up on them difficult." Their top running speed is around 25 mph, and they can fly "short distances at up to 55 miles-per-hour. Wild turkeys spend the night in trees and are particularly fond of oak trees." While their night vision is poor, they do see in color.

You can tell how a turkey is feeling by looking at the color of its head. "When a turkey gets mad, excited, or defensive, its head and neck turn white. The more extreme the emotion, the whiter the color."

Benjamin Franklin favored the turkey as the best choice for our national bird. "The Smithsonian says Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter, praising the turkey as a much more respectable bird than the bald eagle." 

National Turkey Federation graphic
Thanksgiving birds tend to be hens, while "toms are further processed into cutlets and deli meats." Toms are ready for market at roughly 18 weeks and weigh 38 pounds.

In the wild, turkeys like to roost in trees, and "even if you can't see them, you can probably hear them. The wild turkey can make at least 30 different calls. Humans can hear gobbles from a mile away. Hens don't gobble; they make a clicking noise."

Feed is the most expensive part of raising a healthy turkey for farmers. It takes "75-80 pounds of feed to raise a 38-pound tom turkey."

Which state talks the most turkey? Minnesota. The state is "ranked No. 1 in U.S. turkey production, raising more than 40 million turkeys each year."

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