Gobbling up and talking turkey

Tony Nye - OSU Extension

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope each of you had a wonderful day eating turkey and spending time with family.

We certainly have a lot to be thankful for this agricultural year even though we are still trying to finish harvest.

I also hope that you did not put shopping on Thanksgiving ahead of spending time with family. I myself waited until early Friday morning to do my traditional “Black Friday” shopping.

Today, however, is all about the rival game with that team up north. I want to hear Buckeye Nation cheering loudly. My wife would prefer the “G” version, of course.

In honor of thanksgiving I thought I would share some turkey facts with you.

• 88% of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

• Eating turkey does not cause you to feel sleepy after your Thanksgiving dinner. Carbohydrates in your Thanksgiving dinner are the likely cause of your sleepiness.

• According to estimates by the National Turkey Foundation, 46 million turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving. This means that 20% of the 228 million turkeys consumed in the U.S. each year are eaten on Thanksgiving. In 1970, 50% of all turkey consumed was during the holidays. Minnesota farmers produce 22% of the turkeys we consume. The average turkey for Thanksgiving weighs 15 pounds.

• Turns out, the wishbone is more than a fun game for Turkey Day; it also serves as a reminder that birds evolved from a group of dinosaurs. Researchers have found that the wishbone dates back more than 150 million years to a group of meat-eating dinosaurs that includes T. Rex and Velociraptor.

• Turkeys lived almost 10 million years ago.

• Ohio is one of the national leaders for turkey production.

• Ben Franklin, in a letter to his daughter, proposed the turkey as the official United States bird.

• Turkeys prefer to sleep perched atop tree branches, where they are safe from predators, which include coyotes, foxes and raccoons. They often sleep in flocks and upon waking, call out a series of soft yelps before descending to make sure that the rest of their roosting group is okay after a night of not seeing or hearing one another.

• Male turkeys are called gobblers, because they are the only ones that can make that adorable gobbling sound. Female turkeys communicate through clucks and small, chirp-like noises.

• Here’s a great one, a turkey’s gender can be determined from its droppings — males produce spiral-shaped poop while females produce “J” shaped poop.

• Wild turkeys can fly for short bursts at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour (89 kilometers per hour). However, they aren’t often spotted soaring through the sky because they prefer to feed on the ground, where they peck at grass, seeds, acorns, nuts, berries and small insects such as grasshoppers.

• There are approximately 5,500 feathers on an adult wild turkey, including 18 tail feathers that make up the male’s distinct fan.

• When a turkey becomes frightened, agitated, excited or ill, the exposed skin on its head and neck can change from its usual pale pink or bluish gray color to red, white, or blue. And during mating season, the male turkey’s wattle turns scarlet to reflect his elevated sex hormone levels. The fleshy flap of skin that hangs over the gobbler’s beak is called a snood and also turns bright red when the bird is excited.

• Turkey breeding has caused turkey breasts to grow so large that the turkeys fall over.

• And finally, the five most popular ways to serve leftover turkey are in a sandwich, stew, chili or soup, casseroles and as a burger. My mother probably has three or four more ways to have leftovers. Myself, I just like picking it off the bone.

Let us not forget some fun facts for the holiday itself.

The first Thanksgiving in 1621 was celebrated for three days.

The first Thanksgiving feast was made up of lobster, chestnuts, onions, leeks, dried fruit, cabbage, carrots, chicken, rabbit, honey and maple syrup and other items. There were not mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies, or even corn on the cob at the first Thanksgiving feast.

The writer of Mary Had a Little Lamb, Sarah Josepha Hale, is thought to be the person who persuaded Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be the national day for Thanksgiving.

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 29 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.


Tony Nye

OSU Extension