Turkeys are raised extensively because
of the excellent quality of their meat and eggs.
Turkeys were first domesticated by the Aztecs in Mexico.
Fossils show turkeys roamed Texas 2.5 million years ago.
Early European explorers took turkeys from the New World to
Europe in the 16th Century. In Europe the species became established
as farmstead fowl. In the 17th Century, English colonists brought
turkeys back to the New World, introducing European-bred types
to eastern North America.
When Europeans first encountered a turkeys in the Americas,
they incorrectly identified them as a type of peacock, known
as a "turkey fowl" in Europe because it came from
the exotic East. At that time Europeans associated anything
from the east with the Ottoman Empire and often gave it the
name of Turkey, the seat of the Ottoman Empire.
They also assumed it was a turkey fowl because they thought
they were in Asia.
A group of turkeys is called a "rafter."
A nest full of turkey eggs is called a "clutch."
The male turkey is called a "tom." The female is
called a "hen."
Only tom turkeys gobble. Hens make a clucking sound.
The red fleshy thing that hangs from a turkey's neck is called
Today’s farm-raised birds are produced through artificial
insemination. The broad-breasted birds are too large and heavy
to mate naturally.
Each Thanksgiving about
675 million pounds of turkey are consumed in the US. Americans
consume an average of 18 pounds of turkey meat per capita
The US is the world's largest turkey producer and largest
exporter of turkey products. While exports are a major part
of the US turkey market, people in the US also eat more turkey
than people in other countries—13.6 pounds per person in 2007.
The top five turkey-producing states in 2007 were Minnesota,
North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia and Mississippi.
Some Oklahoma farmers range-feed small flocks of turkeys.
That means they turn them loose to find their own grain, weed
seed and insects to eat. Five weeks before it’s time
to sell them, the farmer will start to feed them whole corn
so they’ll get plump.
While Americans prefer the white meat of
turkeys, most of the rest of the world prefers the dark meat.
which avian myologists (bird muscle scientists) refer to
muscle," is used for sustained activity—chiefly
walking, in the case of a turkey. The dark color comes from
a chemical compound in the muscle called myoglobin, which plays
a key role in oxygen transport. White muscle, in contrast,
is suitable only for short bursts of activity such as, for
turkeys, flying. That's why the turkey's leg meat and thigh
meat are dark, and its breast meat (which makes up the primary
flight muscles) is white. Other birds more capable in the flight
department, such as ducks and geese, have red muscle (and dark
Most of the turkey we eat is from the Broad Breasted White
breed. Commercial producers prefer white turkeys because their
feathers don't leave unattractive dark pigment after they have
Domesticated turkeys are bred to have more breast meat, meatier
thighs and white feathers. White feathers are preferred so
that, when plucked, they leave no unsightly pigment spots under
Turkeys have 3,500 feathers at maturity.
Sesame Street's Big Bird costume is made of turkey feathers.
Before modern transportation, farmers in the British Isles
put leather shoes on turkeys and walked them to market.
Turkeys are fed mainly a balanced diet of corn and soybean
meal mixed with a supplement of vitamins and minerals. On average
it takes 84 pounds of feed to raise a 30-pound tom turkey.
A hen usually grows 16 weeks and weighs 8-16 pounds when processed.
A tom takes about 19 weeks to get to a market weight of 24
pounds. Large toms (24-40 pounds) are a few weeks older.
Some Oklahoma farmers
range-feed small flocks of turkeys. That means they turn
them loose to find their own grain, weed seed and insects
to eat. Five weeks before it’s
time to sell them, the farmer will start to feed them whole corn
Early in our history turkeys were kept on small farms not
just for their meat but also because they ate large numbers
of insects and so were a great source of pest control.
Turkeys are sometimes
difficult to raise because they are very curious and tend
to get their heads caught in fences. They must be taught
to eat from special feeders and waterers, just like other
Turkey skins are tanned and used to make items like cowboy
boots, belts and other accessories.
The ballroom dance known as the Turkey Trot was named for
the short, jerky steps a turkey makes.