November 27, 2013

5 facts about turkeys

In honor of Thanksgiving, here are five facts about the big bird at the center of the table.

1 Turkeys are getting bigger.FT_13.11.27_TurkeyCharts_Bigger
As recently as 1980, the typical U.S. domesticated turkey weighed less than 19 pounds at slaughter — not much bigger than its wild cousin. But modern methods of poultry farming enable turkeys to put on more weight more quickly: The average turkey slaughtered last year weighed 29.8 pounds, more than twice the average weight 75 years ago, according to data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The result: Turkey farmers can produce more meat (nearly 5.8 billion pounds this year) from fewer birds (a projected 242 million).

2 Minnesota and North Carolina are the nation’s leading turkey-growing states, last year producing 46 million and 36 million birds respectively, according to the Agriculture Department. This year, the 13 biggest turkey states are expected to collectively produce more than 85% of the nation’s birds.


3 Turkeys, at least the frozen kind, are cheapest this time of year.
FT_13.11.27_TurkeyCharts_Price2From 2000 to 2012, the per-pound price for a whole frozen turkey fell an average of 9.5% from October to November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (which collects price data on hundreds of items, including turkey, so it can calculate the Consumer Price Index). Prices typically stay low in December before rising again after the holidays. This might seem counterintuitive — shouldn’t turkeys be most expensive when demand is highest? — but as New York Times writer Catherine Rampell explained recently, the phenomenon isn’t unique to holiday turkeys, and economists have offered several hypotheses to explain it.

4 Americans like their turkey, but their appetite has limits.
After rising rapidly in the 1980s, per-capita turkey consumption leveled off at nearly 18 pounds per year, but more recently has been drifting lower. Last year, according to Agriculture Department data, Americans ate an average of 16.03 pounds of turkey. At this year’s projected consumption level (5.06 billion pounds), per-capita consumption likely will be about the same or a bit lower than 2012.

5 More U.S. turkey is heading overseas.FT_13.11.27_TurkeyCharts_Overseas
Turkey exports began rising sharply in the early 1990s, and are expected to account for 12.2% of this year’s total U.S. supply. Mexico is by far the biggest market for U.S. turkey, importing 412.7 million pounds last year, according to the National Turkey Federation; Canada (31.2 million pounds) and Hong Kong (26.6 million pounds) were in second- and third- place.

Category: 5 Facts

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.


  1. Sharri Germon4 years ago

    Wow, how depressing is that this, not the report even so the quantity of sheep who acquire in to this crap.…

  2. Marianne Misso4 years ago

    Does that mean that Turkeys are not free range? are they being fed chemicals and crap to get fatter birds so they can sell more?
    Just curiousity?

  3. Sam4 years ago

    Always thought most of the turkeys were in DC. Oh I get it. Those turkeys stay there and eat rather than being eaten.

  4. Jo Unrau4 years ago

    Turkey’s also make good pets. When we had the farm I raised a tom turkey from 2 days old. He was adorable, liked to cuddle & could be trusted to run loose & not leave our property. We had cats & dogs who weren’t that trustworthy. Also had African gander the same way & good protectors too.

  5. L horn4 years ago

    Just paid USD 4.74 per pound for a frozen French produced turkey bought here in NL! It better taste good. Scare blue!

  6. James Singer4 years ago

    Montezuma’s revenge.

  7. Vicki4 years ago

    Do these stats include those turkeys raised free-range and sold on local farms as “organic”?