The Native American name for turkey is ‘firkee’. Some say this is how turkeys got their name.
Turkeys originated in North and Central America, and evidence indicates that they have been around for over 10 million years.
Until 1863, Thanksgiving Day had not been celebrated annually since the first feast in 1621. This changed in 1863 when Sarah Josepha Hale encouraged Abraham Lincoln to set aside the last Thursday in November “as a day for national thanksgiving and prayer.”
In Mexico, the turkey was considered a sacrificial bird.
Domesticated turkeys (farm raised) cannot fly. Wild turkeys can fly for short distances at up to 55 miles per hour. Wild turkeys are also fast on the ground, running at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.
Only male turkeys (toms) gobble. Females (hens) make a clicking noise. The gobble is a seasonal call during the spring and fall. Hens are attracted for mating when a tom gobbles. Wild toms love to gobble when they hear loud sounds or settle in for the night.
The heaviest turkey ever raised weighed in at 86 pounds — about the size of a large German Shepherd — and was grown in England, according to Dr. Sarah Birkhold, poultry specialist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
Mature turkeys have 3,500 or so feathers. The Apache Indians considered the turkey timid and wouldn’t eat it or use its feathers on their arrows.
More than 45 million turkeys are cooked and 525 million pounds of turkey are eaten during Thanksgiving.
Ninety percent of American homes eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Fifty percent eat turkey on Christmas.
North Carolina produces 61 million turkeys annually, more than any other state. Minnesota and Arkansas are number two and three.
The fleshy growth from the base of the beak, which is very long on male turkeys and hangs down over the beak, is called the snood.
At one time, the turkey and the bald eagle were each considered as the national symbol of America. Benjamin Franklin was one of those who argued passionately on behalf of the turkey. Franklin felt the turkey, although “vain and silly”, was a better choice than the bald eagle, whom he felt was “a coward”. He stated that it was more respectable than the bald eagle, and a native of North America.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the U.S. at Thanksgiving. That’s one sixth of all turkeys sold in the U.S. each year.
In 1995, retail sales of turkey reached approximately $4.4 billion.
Age is a determining factor in taste. Old, large males are preferable to young toms (males) as tom meat is stringy. The opposite is true for females: old hens are tougher birds.
A turkey under sixteen weeks of age is called a fryer, while a young roaster is five to seven months old.
Turkeys are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere.
Turkeys have great hearing, but no external ears.
Turkeys can see in color, and have excellent visual acuity and a wide field of vision (about 270 degrees), which makes sneaking up on them difficult.
Turkeys have a poor sense of smell , but an excellent sense of taste.
Turkeys sometimes spend the night in trees.
Turkeys can drown if they look up when it is raining. They can also have heart attacks: turkeys in fields near the Air Force test areas over which the sound barrier was broken were known to drop dead from the shock of passing jets.
The ballroom dance known as the Turkey Trot was named for the short, jerky steps a turkey makes.
As far back as 1000 A.D., Native American Indians raised turkeys for food. Aztec Indians in Mexico were raising them as early as 200B.C.
Turkeys originally existed in the eastern US. and Mexico.
The Average American consumes over 15 pounds of Turkey per year.
Americans consume over 675 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
Turkey, like poultry, is lower in cholesterol than beef an many other meats. The dark meat (thigh, legs,) contains more fat and cholesterol than white meat.
Male Turkeys are called “Toms”, female turkeys are called “Hens” and baby turkeys are called “poults”.
Turkey eggs are tan in color and speckled with brown. They are about twice as large as chicken eggs.
In 1947, the first Presidential pardon was ceremoniously given to a turkey.
That long, loose skin that hangs down from a turkey’s neck is called a “wattle”.
Turkey contains an amino acid called “Tryptophan”. Tryptophan sets off a chemical chain reaction that calms you down and makes you sleepy.