[ 2006-11-23 09:00 ]
This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
American turkey producers will raise close to 270 million of the big
birds this year. That is the estimate of the National Turkey Federation, an
industry group. Tens of millions will be the traditional star of Thanksgiving
holiday meals this Thursday and next month at Christmas.
Americans eat more turkey throughout the year, and more of it in general,
than in the past. The federation says people ate an average of seven and
one-half kilograms of turkey last year. But they ate three times as much pork,
four times as much beef and five times as much chicken.
Lamb was a distant fifth in popularity behind turkey.
Turkeys produced more than three thousand million dollars in farm earnings
last year. The five top producing states were Minnesota, North Carolina,
Arkansas, Virginia and Missouri. The top five export markets for turkey meat
from the United States were Mexico, China, Canada, Russia and Taiwan.
Turkey is sold many ways -- frozen, fresh, whole, cut into parts, ground up
like hamburger, thinly sliced, roasted, fried, smoked. People eat it in
sandwiches, in soups, in salads, in sausages and more. But at Thanksgiving
people generally buy a whole bird -- in some cases, all prepared and ready to
Modern turkeys are designed for industrial production and for a market where
white meat is more popular than dark. The federation says a turkey usually has
about 70 percent white meat.
Turkey hens lay eighty to 100 eggs in a season. Producers use artificial
insemination to fertilize the eggs. The turkeys grow quickly. In fourteen weeks,
a hen weighs seven kilograms and is ready for market. Males take eighteen weeks
to reach fourteen kilograms.
Most turkeys are raised what is known as the conventional way. But some
higher-priced birds are raised outdoors, without antibiotic drugs and with a
diet of feed grown without chemicals.
Some small farms raise what are called heritage turkeys. These native birds
are smaller and take longer to grow. But they mate naturally and have more of a
balance of dark and white meat. Heritage turkeys have a stronger taste that some
But turkeys are sold by weight, and people often buy big ones for the
holidays. So price may be the biggest consideration of all.
And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn
Watson. You can learn more about Thanksgiving at www.unsv.com. I'm Shep O'Neal.