In honor of the 46 million birds that did not get a presidential pardon yesterday, Newsfeed brings you a few lesser known facts about the long history and bleak modern lives of America’s favorite avian feast.
- The red fleshy bits hanging off turkeys’ beaks are called “snoods,” not to be confused with wattles, the fleshy bits under the neck that Richard the lawyer on Ally McBeal fetishized. When a male turkey is strutting, the snood engorges with blood and extends to hang down over the beak. The snood has no known function, according to the National Wild Turkey Association.
- Europeans first taste of turkey came after the Conquistadors discovered domesticated turkeys raised by the Aztecs, and brought them back to Spain.
- When European settlers first came to North America, there were wild turkey populations in what are now 39 states and Ontario. Those numbers dropped dramatically over the next centureies; by 1920, they were only present in 21.
- Though there is no specific historical information about turkeys being served at the first Thanksgiving, there was evidently some fowl caught, which could have been turkey. Standish of Standish, an 1889 novel, may have popularized this idea as included a turkey being served at the first Indian and Pilgrim meal.
- Today’s factory turkeys’ brains are about a third the size of wild turkeys’.
- Modern commercial turkeys have increased from an average of 18 pounds in 1965 to nearly 30 pounds today — an increase of 57%. Domesticated turkeys are so heavy for their frames that they have chronic foot and leg problems, and they can’t run or fly. Wild turkeys can fly to up 55mph.
- Turkeys have also been bred to have abornally large breasts to meet American customers’ taste for white meat. As a result, factory turkeys, most of which are Broad Breasted Whites, are unable to breed naturally, and female turkeys are all artificially inseminated.
- The largest recorded turkey, according to a poultry specialist at the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, was raised in England and weighed in at a shocking 86 pounds. That’s about the size of a 7th grader.
- A baby turkey is called a poult.
- Turkeys freak out in crowds. When they get spooked, they run for cover, an instinct that is useful in the wild, but works against them in pen conditions when they head to one place and pile up, smothering their neighbors that end up on the bottom.
A moment of silence, please.