Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Trivia

Turkeys originated in North and Central America, and evidence indicates that they have been around for over 10 million years.

Only male turkeys (toms) gobble. Females (hens) make a clicking noise. The gobble is a seasonal call during the spring and fall. Hens are attracted for mating when a tom gobbles. Wild toms love to gobble when they hear loud sounds or settle in for the night. 

The average person in the U.S. will eat more than seventeen pounds of turkey this year, and the average Canadian will eat nine pounds. (This includes turkey sausage, turkey bacon, and turkey lunch meats, in addition to holiday turkeys.

In 2010, more than 242 million turkeys were raised with an average live-weight per bird of 28 pounds with nearly 6 billion pounds of turkey processed. By contrast, in 1970, only 105 million birds were raised with an average live-weight of 17 pounds and 1.5 billion pounds processed. The turkeys produced in 2009 together weighed 7.1 billion pounds and were valued at $3.6 billion.

Two to four billion pounds of poultry feathers are produced every year. Most are ground up as filler for animal food. (Mature turkeys each have 3,500 or so feathers.)

Turkeys have great hearing, but no external ears. They can also see in color, and have excellent visual acuity and a wide field of vision (about 270 degrees), which makes sneaking up on them difficult.

At one time, the turkey and the bald eagle were each considered as the national symbol of America. Benjamin Franklin was one of those who argued passionately on behalf of the turkey. Franklin felt the turkey, although "vain and silly", was a better choice than the bald eagle.

Turkeys are believed to be dumb birds that will look up to the sky when it rains until they drown. Actually they are no more or less intelligent than comparable animals.

There is a traditional White House - Presidential custom called the Turkey Pardon  that dates to Harry S. Truman's presidency. The origins are obscure; some think it even goes back to Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son Tad's pet turkey.

Presidents have been pardoning a turkey at Thanksgiving for years, but where the bird goes after its White House cameo has changed. For 15 years, until 2004, the birds went to a historic farm in Herndon, Va.: Frying Pan Farm Park. Disneyland took over in 2005 when the California park was celebrating its 50th anniversary. The pardoned turkey and an alternate -- Marshmallow and Yam -- got a police escort to the airport and flew first class to California.

This year, after President Obama pardons the turkey Wednesday before Thanksgiving; the fortunate fowl will live out the rest of its life at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia.

Turkey droppings are being used as a fuel source in electric power plants like one in Minnesota that provides 55 megawatts of power using 700,000 tons (that’s 140 million pounds!) of dung per year. There are three such plants in England. The critics say turkey litter, of all farm animals' manure, is the most valuable as a rich, organic fertilizer at a time when demand is growing for all things organic. (Source)

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