Pascual Hernandez
Pascual Hernandez

With the holiday season upon us, I thought it might be fun to share trivia about the turkey many will enjoy this Thanksgiving and the holiday itself.

For starters, the US has celebrated Thanksgiving off and on since 1774. In 1789 George Washington proclaimed that the American people should celebrate a day of thanksgiving to God on November 26th. Some presidents after him continued the custom, periodically declaring days of Thanksgiving. It didn’t become an annual holiday until 1863 with Abraham Lincoln proclaiming a day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. Every year after that, presidents proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be a day of Thanksgiving. President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed it to be the fourth Thursday.

The turkey trivia comes from the Illinois Extension Service and the National Turkey Federation.

Wild turkeys were almost wiped out in the early 1900’s. Today there are wild turkeys in every state except Alaska. Wild turkeys can fly for short distances up to 55 mph and can run 20 mph. Commercially-raised turkeys cannot fly.

Turkey consumption has increased 104% since 1970. A recent survey shows that 736 million pounds of turkey are consumed in the United States.
In 1970, 50% of all turkey consumed was during the holidays, now just 29% of all turkey consumed is during the holidays as more turkey is eaten year-round.

The National Turkey Federation reports that 88% of Americans surveyed eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Further, 46 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving, 22 million on Christmas and 19 million turkeys on Easter. The average American eats 16.7 pounds of turkey.

Turkey is the # 4 protein choice for American consumers behind chicken, beef and pork. The top three turkey products sold are whole birds, ground turkey and deli meat. Turkey meat is low in fat and high in protein. A turkey usually has about 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat.
Female turkeys are called hens, while males are called toms. Turkey hens are usually sold as whole birds. Toms are processed into turkey sausage, turkey franks, tenderloins, cutlets and deli meats.

The average weight of a turkey purchased at Thanksgiving is 15 pounds, but domesticated male turkeys can reach a weight of 30 pounds within 18 weeks after hatching. The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds.

There will be Thanksgiving Day leftovers. By the way, the five most popular ways to serve leftover turkey are in a sandwich, stew, chili or soup, casseroles and as a burger.

We wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving from the Sutton County Extension Office.