Talking Turkey: How Much Do We Love Turkey?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 16:45

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and If you're like most Americans, you have turkey on Thanksgiving. According to the National Turkey Federation (yes, there is such a thing), a staggering 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving. It's pretty amazing that 88% of Americans would agree to do the same of anything, so I like to think of this as something that is uniquely American, and something that strangely unites us as a country.

Given that we apparently love our turkey in this country, I thought it fitting to tap into some of our government production and consumption resources to see what it could tell us about our love affair with this strange bird. You can find rich analysis data at a couple places. The first, http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/livestock-meat-domestic-data.aspx, is the USDA's site that includes a ton of useful analysis on various consumption statistics. This has in it lots of reports on various items, and you can pretty quickly find the data you need for turkey consumption.  

The other site is http://quickstats.nass.usda.gov, which has a very rich, queryable set of data on all kinds of production and consumption data. I learned a lot about turkey data through this exercise. For example, one of the methods they use to calculate consumption is to take difference of the number of federally inspected turkeys from period to period, minus exports to calculate what they term turkey "disappearance." I thought that was kind of stirring, in a way.

I found a lot of interesting things in the turkey analysis. For example, our key turkey producing states are Minnesota, North Carolina and Arkansas, who account for the vast majority of the turkey we eat. The other staggering fact is that the size of the turkeys we raise has DOUBLED over the past 50 years. I don't want to meet one of them in a dark alley. And while our consumption shot up in the 1980's and 90's, where we consumed on average 14.4 pounds of turkey in 1994, it's undergone a slight decline in the past few years. Even still, we consume over 2 pounds of turkey every November.
 
So enjoy this visualization, and to those 12% out there who take a pass on turkey this year, rest assured, everyone else will be making up for you.

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