By: Shirley Jones
- The domestic turkey descended from wild turkeys originally native to Southern Ontario, parts of the U.S. and Mexico. The turkey was tamed by the American Indian in Mexico and taken to Europe by Spanish conquistadors early in the 16th century. By 1524, the turkey reached England and by 1558, became popular at banquets in England and throughout Europe. When English settlers came to North America, they brought the domesticated turkey back and used it as breeding stock with native wild turkeys.
- When it comes to turkey consumed per person, Israelites lead the world, eating just over 34 pounds a year, and they don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving. The United States average is about 17 pounds per person per year... that’s about the equivalent of one big butterball per person!
- Sleepy after eating all that turkey? Turkey contains an amino acid called Tryptophan. Tryptophan sets off a chemical chain reaction that calms you down and makes you sleepy.
- It is estimated that 95 percent of Americans eat turkey.
- Age is a determining factor in taste. Old large male turkeys are preferable to young toms (males) as tom meat is stringy. The opposite is true for females: old hens are tougher birds.
- The 15-pound turkey is 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat. White meat has fewer calories and less fat than dark meat.
- Only tom turkeys gobble. Hen turkeys make a clicking noise.
- It was once believed that merely touching a wishbone would bring you good luck. Squabbles over the bone eventually led to the custom of tugging them until they snapped, and the holder of the longer piece would be granted a wish.
- North Carolina produces 61 million turkeys annually, more than any other state. Minnesota and Arkansas are number two and three.
- Turkeys have 3,500 or so feathers at maturity.
- Turkey eggs are pale creamy tan with brown speckles, and twice as large as chicken eggs. They hatch in 28 days. A baby turkey is called a poult and is tan and brown.
- Turkeys have great hearing but no external ears. They can also see in color and have excellent visual acuity with a wide field of vision, about 270 degrees, which makes sneaking up on them difficult. Strangely, turkeys have a poor sense of smell (what's cooking?) but an excellent sense of taste.
- The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 15 pounds.
- The state game bird of Alabama is the turkey. The wild turkey is the state bird of Oklahoma.
- A wild turkey can run 25 mph.
- In 1863, Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November as “the day for thanksgiving and prayer.”
- Thanksgiving is also celebrated in Canada where it is observed in October instead of November.
- The first American Thanksgiving celebration was held in Plymouth, Massachusetts.