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Five Turkey Facts for Thanksgiving

A turkey is a "a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards," wrote Benjamin Franklin.

 

Who — aside from turkeys — doesn’t love Thanksgiving? With all the football, family and food involved, it’s easy to understand why millions of people celebrate the tradition. Thanksgiving was made a federal holiday in 1941 and turkey consumption has fast been on the rise.

Thanksgiving from the perspective of the main entrée doesn’t seem nearly as fun. Here are five facts about the fast-growing industry and the birds that make the holiday possible.

1. The National Turkey Foundation says that consumption of the bird has doubled since 1970. The per capita consumption is 16.1 pounds in 2011. In 1975, 124.2 million turkeys were produced. In 2011, 248.5 million turkeys were produced to meet demand.

2. By the 1800s, nearly all turkeys in Connecticut had been extinct. The turkey population was successfully introduced in the 1950s. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Conservation lovingly refers to the turkey as a “majestic bird.”

3. Wild turkeys can be found in 49 states, according to the Connecticut DEEC. The only state missing the bird is Alaska.

4. The turkey you eat this Thanksgiving almost certainly was the product of artificial insemination. According to author Steven Dubner (Freakonomics), turkeys have been bred to have large breasts, as consumers tend to value white meat the most. Due to the large size of the breasts, most turkeys are physically unable to have sex.

5. The bald eagle was selected as the national bird of the newly-formed United States of America. Founding father Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter,  “[The turkey] is besides, tho’ a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

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