Thanksgiving is really about giving thanks and being thankful for the rights afforded you as a U.S. citizen. But ask most Americans and they will tell you Thanksgiving is all about the food and large, extravagant family feats. As an advocate for the food and farming industry, I wanted to take this opportunity to explain exactly where your traditional Thanksgiving meal comes from and who is responsible for producing the food that makes your holiday memorable.
Starting today and continuing each day between now and Thanksgiving, I will give information on one of the staples of a traditional holiday meal.
Day 1: The Turkey
The turkey is the historic centerpiece of any true Thanksgiving meal. It’s a healthy protein source that has grown in popularity over the past decade. This year, American families are expected to consume more than 46 million birds during the Thanksgiving holiday.
According to the National Agricultural Statistical Service, there were nearly 248 million turkeys raised in the U.S. this year alone. Minnesota, North Carolina and Arkansas are the top three states for turkey production but 13 states are responsible for 85 percent of all turkey production. The animal generates more than $4.3 billion in agricultural receipts in 2010.
Turkeys consume a feed ration that is comprised mainly of corn and soybeans. There has been much debate on the benefits of cages versus free-range production with both production options having benefits and hurdles for the animals and producer. A traditional turkey reaches its full weight at about 2 years of age.
It is illegal to inject turkeys with hormones or steroids and industry leaders say it was not a common practice before it was outlawed. A packaged turkey on the grocery store shelves contains only the turkey, water and salt – for preservation.
Butterball, one of the nation’s largest turkey producers, advertises its fresh, whole turkey as having 8 grams of fat and 170 calories per 4 ounce serving. It has a whopping 21 grams of protein and no carbohydrates. But, when turkeys are fried, drowned in gravy and heavily oiled, it loses some of its star-power nutritional value.
The Turkey Federation’s website at (www.eatturkey.com) offers a great deal of information about the poultry industry and how to prepare the bird for Thanksgiving.
And to learn more about poultry production, log onto the Fosterfarms.com or goodsheperdpoultryranch.com.
Day 2: The Stuffing