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46 Million Turkeys Were Killed For Thanksgiving

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that nearly 250 million turkeys are killed each year. Of those about 46 million, or nearly 20%, are killed for Thanksgiving meals. The University of Illinois says another 22 million are killed for Christmas meals and 19 million for Easter.

The COVID-19 pandemic could shave down actual turkey killings this year because families will have smaller gatherings. The New York Times reports that “All indications are that the holiday gatherings that used to bring together dozens of people to share one or two turkeys will be scuttled in favor of smaller celebrations.” Or, perhaps 46 million were killed, with a larger than normal portion being less than traditional turkey size.

And, perhaps smaller Thanksgiving celebrations will kick turkeys out of the kitchen altogether. Food & Wine suggests a long list of alternatives. These range from ham to cannelloni to capon. The magazine has 24 alternatives.

While the cost of turkey may rise, it will not drive the prices of an entire Thanksgiving meal higher. The carefully followed American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual cost survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table shows that:

Farm Bureau’s 35th annual survey indicates the average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving feast for 10 remains affordable at $46.90 or less than $5.00 per person. This is a $2.01 decrease from last year’s average of $48.91.

Oddly, the American Farm Bureau Federation estimate for the cost of a 12-pound turkey is down 1.4% to $19.39. That estimate contradicts the case that turkey prices have risen. (The AFBF does suggest ham as an alternative.)

Some people would rather that there be no turkey at Thanksgiving dinner at all. PETA makes the argument that the life of a turkey is grim enough before it is killed. While wild turkeys mostly lead pleasant lives… “the story is very different for turkeys on factory farms: They’ll be killed when they’re only 3 to 5 months old and, during their short lives, will be denied even the simplest pleasures, such as running, building nests, and raising their young.” Their deaths add injury (permanent) to insult.

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you. Stay safe. Enjoy one of the 46 million turkeys.

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