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Monday, November 14, 2011

Talking Turkey

Martok
with Sue Weaver, Hobby Farms Contributing Editor

Tom turkey
Photo by Rachael Brugger
Humans always think turkey when Thanksgiving comes around. They are such interesting birds!

Next week will be Thanksgiving, and we can hardly wait! Mom makes treats for all of us animals and adds raisins and chopped apples to our food. Yum!

Humans eat special yummy things on Thanksgiving, too. Most people choose turkey because it's the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Our Mom and Dad are vegetarians, though, so they have to think outside the box. One year, they tried a Tofurky roast; it was good but not quite the real thing. Now they fix a turkey feast with all the trimmings except the turkey: lots of mushroom stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green-bean casserole, homemade dinner rolls with rich butter, Jell-O, and pumpkin pie with real whipped cream. It's so good that nobody misses the turkey.

If you're preparing a turkey dinner for your Thanksgiving feast, Hobby Farms can help you do it safely and show you how to make tasty turkey meals with the leftovers after you're done.

Turkeys are cool. We know that because Uzzi and I Googled turkeys last night. Here are some of the things we learned.

  • United States turkey producers raised 2.9 billion pounds of turkey in the first six months of 2011. During the same time period live turkey weights averaged 30.1 pounds, up 1.1 percent from the same period in 2010.

  • Commercial turkeys grow faster and have lots more white meat than old-time heritage turkey breeds, but if you want a truly tasty turkey buy a heritage bird. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy promotes them.

  • The Guinness World Record for heaviest turkey weighed 86 pounds already dressed and ready to roast.

  • Turkeys are New World birds that were domesticated in Mexico around 800 B.C. The Spaniards brought domestic turkeys to Europe in 1519 and they reached England by 1524. Turkeys became so popular that the Pilgrims brought tame turkeys back to America in 1620.

  • The famous Big Bird of Sesame Street is covered with nearly 4,000 white turkey feathers dyed bright yellow.

  • History says Ben Franklin wanted the wild turkey instead of the bald eagle for our national emblem. On January 26, 1784, he wrote a famous letter about it to his daughter, Sarah Bache, but some historians say the letter was written with tongue-in-cheek.

  • Only adult male turkeys make a "gobble, gobble" sound; they are called tom turkeys or gobblers. Hen turkeys make a gentle clucking sound instead of gobbling.

  • In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln officially proclaimed the last Thursday in November "as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

  • In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving a whole week earlier to allow for extra Christmas shopping time. The public disapproved, so it was changed back to the old date in 1941.

  • Turkey is also traditionally eaten for Christmas dinner. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol popularized the Christmas turkey dinner in Great Britain.

  • The ballroom dance the "turkey trot" was named for the short, jerky steps that turkeys take. Some people thought the dance was scandalous. It was replaced by the fox trot in 1914.

Want to read more fun and fantastic turkey facts? Visit the University of Illinois' Turkey for Thanksgiving website, where you can also learn to choose, cook and carve your holiday bird. There's even a page of holiday hotlines if you need help. Check it out!

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Talking Turkey

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Reader Comments
Our tom has taken to riding our hen chickens. We have a hen turkey he seems to ignore her. Because Tom is 4 times as big as our hens we are afraid his behavior is not good for them. Any suggestions would help.
Kathy, Bismarck, MO
Posted: 2/16/2013 3:41:09 PM
I'd like to raise a couple of Red Bourbon Turkeys, to see how well they would do at both eating and becoming broody. Just have to wait until the barn is re-raised! Thanks for the info
Kamia, 2000 Cow, 200 people land, MO
Posted: 12/1/2011 7:02:04 PM
Thanks for all the turkey facts! I'd love to raise my own heritage turkeys for next year; the one we purchased this year was delicious!
Holda, Coatesville, PA
Posted: 11/28/2011 4:23:12 AM
Michele and Kelly, heritage turkeys grow slower than commercial breeds and they don't get great, huge chests, so they don't have the physical problems that commercial turkeys do. Our neighbors have had a Royal Palm gobbler called Mike for at least 4 years; he's a cool, friendly guy and he's gorgeous!
Martok, Mammoth Spring, AR
Posted: 11/21/2011 6:47:48 AM
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