Thanksgiving Turkey Consumption


Ben Franklin proposed for the turkey to be the official bird of the United States. America has always been well affiliated with the gobbling bird, and the wild turkey itself is native to northern Mexico and the eastern U.S.

But as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, the abundance of turkey increases not just across the U.S but many other parts of the world. “China (82.8 million pounds), Hong Kong (37.9 million), Canada (22.6 million), and the Dominican Republic (15.2 million) round out the top five importers.” The turkey craze really spread beyond the U.S and U.K beginning in 1990.

“In 1990, the year before I came to work here,” says Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation, a DC based lobbying group, “the turkey industry exported 53.9 million pounds of turkey. This year the industry exported 728 million pounds, a record. What’s equally as significant about that is, in 1990, about one percent of all the turkey produced in the U.S was exported. Now it’s more like 13 percent.”

Most turkey is typically raised on farms in the U.S, predominately in Minnesota, North Carolina, and Arkansas. According to the USDA, an estimated 6 billion pounds of turkey meat has been produced annually of the past 5 years, and consistently around 240 million turkeys have been produced in the U.S for the last decade. The National Agricultural Statistics Service valued the production of these turkeys at $6.18 billion dollars in 2016.

However, during the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the average price of turkey drops. This is possible for a very simple reason: turkey stocks are built up throughout the whole year, reaching its peak in September with over half a billion pounds in reserve in the U.S alone. This amount of turkey, 500 million pounds or more, means that by the end of each summer, there are almost two pounds of turkey for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. Then, turkey supply plummets from September to December, and farmers, processors, and wholesalers begin building their stocks again for next year.

The National Turkey Federation, an advocacy organization for turkey farmers whose goal is to get people to eat more turkey, estimates that Americans eat around 45-46 million turkeys over Thanksgiving, encompassing about 88% of the U.S population. Overall, about 46 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving, 22 million on Christmas, and 19 million on Easter.