Gobbling Up Turkey Trivia

Happy Thanksgiving! What a wonderful holiday it is–unless, of course, you are a turkey. Turkey is synonymous with Thanksgiving, so it behooves us to know something about this bird. I’m pretty sure that your friends and family would rather talk turkey trivia than to wade into the troubled waters of political discussions. So let’s learn a few fun facts about turkeys.

The majestic bald eagle is the national bird of the U.S.A., but the turkey might have gotten this designation. Early in our country’s history, a move was afoot to make the turkey the country’s bird. However, Thomas Jefferson successfully opposed this idea. Hence, male birds became known as “Toms” in a not so subtle dig at Mr. Jefferson. Yes, politics was ugly even back then.

While news stories about mass shootings are becoming more commonplace, we don’t hear about the mass execution of turkeys. Does no one care about the targeted turkey? According to the National Turkey Federation, 45 to 46 MILLION turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving. That’s a whopping number of fatalities of our fine feathered friends.

If Bambi were killed for a feast, there would no doubt be a hue and cry from the public in general and animal lovers in particular. Funny, I don’t recall learning about any protests at the first Thanksgiving where the Pilgrims celebrated with the Wampanoag tribe; venison was the main meat on that menu. Not being a fan of deer meat, I have yet another thing to be thankful for today; I won’t have to eat Bambi or any of Bambi’s relatives.

Concerned about putting on a few pounds from your Thanksgiving feast? The turkey which is likely front and center on your holiday dining table is not worried about his figure, but the hostess must figure out how much meat is required to serve her guests. An average turkey purchased for Thanksgiving is sixteen pounds. And Martha Stewart advises that the cook count on having 1 1/2 pounds of turkey for person for this size bird. If you get a scrawny turkey, i.e., under 12 pounds, you should plan on two pounds of turkey per person. And I thought that a quarter pounder contained a lot of meat! Hope each diner has a big plate to hold this mound of meat.

And does being PC fly out the window at Thanksgiving? Well we know the turkey is unable escape his doom by flying out the window because domesticated turkeys cannot fly. Turkeys are native to the Americas. In fact, they are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere. If Native American Indian rights are protected; why are Native American turkeys not accorded similar protection and recognition? Enquiring minds want to know!

Gender differences exist between male and female turkeys. Toms (adult males) are the only turkeys who can gobble. The (non-gobbling) female turkey is called a hen. Perhaps the tom is gobbling because he is hen-pecked?

Pork may be the “other white meat,” but turkey is another white meat. A typical turkey is 70% white meat and 30% dark meat. Those who wish to maintain a healthy diet on Thanksgiving (good luck with that!) should opt for the white meat which has fewer calories and less fat.

While millions of turkeys will get to meet their maker so Americans can feast on Thanksgiving, at least one bird will have a great holiday. And who is that lucky turkey? Why, the National Thanksgiving Turkey. It has become tradition for the president to grant a pardon to this bird; he saves the turkey’s life and makes political hay at the same time. Stays of execution have been issued by presidents for years, but President George H.W. Bush was the one who came up with the idea of “pardoning” a turkey. The pardonee is then sent to live out the rest of his days at an animal sanctuary. I am not sure what heinous crime the turkey committed to be facing a death sentence, but at least he was spared to see another Thanksgiving.

And to make the pardon even more special, presidents have been asked to pardon turkeys with cutesy names. In 2013, President Obama pardoned Popcorn. Another year he pardoned Tater and Tot. Last year President Trump pardoned Drumstick and Wishbone. This past Tuesday Peas and Carrots received a reprieve. Trump even tweeted to ask citizens to vote as to which of these two birds would be the media star for the pardoning ceremony.  Let’s not ask Florida voters to weigh in. By the time their votes are counted (and likely recounted), it might be Easter.

For a turkey, Thanksgiving is both the best and the worst of times. He is the star of the holiday show, but he won’t get to enjoy it because, well, he’s dead. For Americans, Thanksgiving is the best time for us. We have federal authorization to take a holiday and count our blessings; we probably won’t count the calories we consume though. We can be thankful that we live in a country that, although flawed, allows us many freedoms which others in this world do not have. We have a higher standard of living that most. We will have food on our Thanksgiving table and friends and family with whom to share it. And last, but certainly not least, the midterm elections are over. Let’s talk (and EAT) turkey, not politics today.

Just WONDER-ing: Do you prefer white or dark meat? Would you eat either if you personally had to kill your turkey? Other than delicious food, what do you have to be thankful for on Thanksgiving? Is there any reason not to be thankful every day?








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