Happy Thanksgiving: Here’s some facts about turkeys

By Tony Nye - OSU Extension

Gobble-Gobble, happy Thanksgiving! It’s that time of year when that bird we call a turkey becomes quite popular. In honor of this fine feathered delicacy, I thought I would share some turkey production facts, some safe cooking tips to consider and some fun facts.

According to the Ohio Poultry Association, Ohio ranks ninth nationally in turkey production with nearly 305 million pounds of turkey produced. The latest facts I could find notes that in 2019, the value of turkey produced in Ohio was more than $152 million. Ohio turkey production is responsible for the creation of 21,846 jobs annually and $1 billion in earnings

Nationally, U.S. turkey consumption has more than doubled since 1970 due to consumers’ recognition of turkey’s good taste and nutritional profile. In 2019, Americans consumed 5.3 billion pounds of turkey at an average rate of 16 pounds per person. In 2019, approximately 230 million turkeys were raised on about 2,500 U.S. farms.

For Thanksgiving alone, approximately 46 million turkeys are expected to be consumed on Thanksgiving Day. One report I found says that nearly 293 million Americans are likely to be eating a turkey dinner.

When preparing the turkey, there are some things ahead of time we must consider like, how to thaw a turkey. There are three ways to thaw your turkey safely: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven. The preferred method is in the refrigerator, but it is important to plan ahead. The other methods are quicker if needed. It is safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state but keep in mind the cooking time will take at least 50 percent longer than recommended for a fully thawed turkey.

In the Refrigerator: Place the frozen turkey in the original wrapper on a pan or in a container to prevent the juices from dripping on other food. Put in the refrigerator (40 °F or below) and allow approximately 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

In Cold Water: If you forget to thaw the turkey or don’t have room in the refrigerator for thawing, don’t panic. Be sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water. Submerge the turkey in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. Allow about 30 minutes defrosting time per pound of turkey. A turkey thawed in cold water should be cooked immediately.

In the Microwave Oven: Microwave thawing is safe if the turkey is not too large. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the size of turkey that will fit into your microwave oven, the minutes per pound, and the power level to use for thawing. Cook immediately after thawing.

Should you cook with stuffing in the turkey. It is now recommended best not to cook your stuffing inside the turkey. This is because uncooked poultry can harbor bacterial pathogens, which can be present both on the inside and outside of raw turkey.

The only way to destroy this potentially dangerous bacterium is to cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, using a meat thermometer to ensure the bird has reached this temperature. The pop-up thermometers are not very reliable, so it is best to verify doneness with a meat/food thermometer.

To measure the temperature of a turkey you should insert the meat thermometer into three areas of the turkey to measure its internal temperature: in the thickest part of the turkey breast, in the innermost part of the wing and in the innermost part of the turkey thigh.

Other food safety Thanksgiving meal tips include:

Don’t wash your turkey. Washing raw meat and poultry products just spread bacteria around your kitchen. The only way to destroy bacteria on your turkey is to cook it to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Don’t leave the food out on the table all day. It’s best to serve the food hot. Bacteria can grow rapidly on food that’s left out for more than two hours after cooking. Put hot food away by dividing it up into small containers and refrigerate or freeze within two hours.

Now some fun facts about turkey and Thanksgiving for 2022:

· 9 Hrs. 27 Mins. Is the length of time the average American male would need to spend on the treadmill to burn the 4,500 calories consumed at the average Thanksgiving meal.

· I love this one – $26 Million in property loss caused by residential building fires each Thanksgiving. I figure this is mostly caused by deep fryers or should I say, caused by the individuals operating the deep fryer.

· What a way to ruin a great meal- 66% share of people celebrating Thanksgiving try to avoid having to talk politics at the dinner table.

Finally, a couple turkey fun facts. Did you know female turkeys don’t gobble, but they do purr.

An adult turkey has around 5,000 to 6,000 feathers.

Turkey droppings tell a bird’s sex and age. Male droppings are j-shaped; female droppings are spiral-shaped.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.


By Tony Nye

OSU Extension