Sizing Up Turkeys from the American Farm

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Posted: Nov 22, 2017 12:01 AM
Sizing Up Turkeys from the American Farm

Some key statistics about U.S. farm-raised turkeys in 2017:

  • Turkeys breed in the spring, their twenty-eight-week growth cycle coinciding perfectly with Thanksgiving.
  • Turkey consumption has grown from 6.4 pounds/person in 1960 to 16.8 pounds/person in 2017.
  • Pound for pound, turkey is the least expensive meat and is a low-fat meat alternative to beef and pork.
  • We eat more than 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving.
  • The average weight of a turkey is now over 30 pounds; it was 15 pounds in 1930.
  • Turkeys have been transformed by breeding into a fast-growing bird, efficiently converting feed to food.
  • Turkeys are so large they require artificial insemination to reproduce.
  • Industrial turkey production is year-round, producing turkey bacon, sausage, burgers and those large turkey legs found at Disney World.
  • Industrialization has problems, such as stressing the animals, who no longer regulate their food intake and mimic us, overeating too often. Their deaths may be humane but remain disturbing to those (sub)urbanites who remain disconnected from their sources of food.

Those stats are a little outdated - the preliminary data that we have from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that the average live weight of a farm-raised turkey in the United States is now a little over 31 pounds (14 kg) in 2017.

Average Live Weight of Each U.S. Farm-Raised Turkey Produced, 1970-2016, with Preliminary Data for 2017

Which brings up a question that perhaps should now be asked: "What is the biological limit for how big a turkey can get?"