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Talking Turkey

History & Trivia


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Turkey trivia and facts in United States History

Turkeys are a part of United States history as well as an
American holiday dinner table tradition dating back hundreds
of years. From the first Thanksgiving to the turkey burgers
of today. However, many of us still know little about these
wonderful birds. Following are some of the most interesting
facts about turkeys.

Turkey Lore

Early explorers to the New World quickly acquired a taste
for turkey and took birds back to Europe. By the 1500s,
turkeys had become well known in Western Europe and were
being raised domestically in England, Italy, and France. So
by the time the Pilgrims and other settlers arrived in
America, they were already familiar with raising and eating
turkey and naturally included it as part of their
Thanksgiving feast.

Some experts think the first Thanksgiving dinner was served
by the Pilgrims in 1621. Others say that the Jamestown,
Virginia's settlers celebrated the first Thanksgiving as a
replication of Britains' ancient Harvest Home Festival.

Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday in 1863, by
then President Abraham Lincoln. It was said to have been a
response to a campaign for the new holiday that was
organized by magazine editor Sara Joseph Hale. President
Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving Day forward one week
in 1939, and it is still celebrated on that day today.

A Bird of Courage

Benjamin Franklin, who proposed the turkey as the United
States' Official Bird, was unhappy when the Bald Eagle was
chosen over the turkey. Franklin wrote to his daughter
saying, "I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the
representative of our country! The turkey is a much more
respectable bird, and withal a true original native of

A visit to the White House

Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation (NTF) has
presented the President of the United States with a live
turkey and two dressed turkeys each year in celebration of
Thanksgiving. The annual presentation of the National
Thanksgiving Turkey to the President has become a
traditional holiday ritual in the nation's Capitol,
signaling the unofficial beginning of the holiday season and
providing the President an opportunity to reflect publicly
on the meaning of the Thanksgiving season. After the
ceremony, the live bird retires to live out the rest of its
years in peace.

Nearly eighty-eight percent of Americans surveyed by the
National Turkey Federation eat turkey at Thanksgiving.
Turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving average about fifteen
pounds each, which means that around six hundred and ninety
million pounds of turkey were eaten in the United States
during Thanksgiving in 2006!

Turkey Feathers and Fluff

It's estimated that turkeys have around three thousand and
five hundred feathers by adulthood. Most turkey feathers at
turkey processing plants are composted or burned, but some
feathers may be used for special purposes such as the dyed
feathers used to make American Indian costumes or as quills
for pens. The costume that "Big Bird" wears on "Sesame
Street" is rumored to be sewn of turkey feathers. Turkey
down is sometimes used as furniture and pillow stuffing, and
turkey skins are tanned and used to make belts, cowboy
boots, or other accessories.

Ready for a nap?

It is the stuff of many Thanksgiving stories and jokes that
people become drowsy after eating Thanksgiving dinner. While
turkey is usually blamed, recent studies suggest that any
carbohydrate-rich meal can cause sleepiness by increasing
the number of tryptophans in the brain, so turkey is just
one of the culprits.

Compare the White and Dark Meat

* A turkey typically has about seventy percent white meat
and thirty percent dark meat.

* White meat is more popular in the United States, but in
other countries more choose the dark meat.

* White meat has fewer calories and less fat than dark meat,
but the fat in dark meat gives it more flavor.

* The richer flavor of the dark meat is especially valued
for use in soup and stew recipes. Dark meat holds its
consistency better in rich marinades and is excellent when
grilled or barbecued.

Moon Food

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ate their first meal on
the moon, their foil food packets contained roast turkey and
the traditional trimmings.

Did you know?

Only the male (Tom) turkeys gobble. Hen turkeys simply make
a clicking sound.

Domesticated turkeys can't fly, they are too heavy. Wild
turkeys can fly for short distances at up to fifty-five
miles per hour and can run twenty miles per hour!

June is National Turkey Lovers' Month!


Full of Fun and Color - Stuffed Turkeys

Calendars featuring Turkeys strutting their stuff