Overclocking Turkeys

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Overclocking is the art of getting more from less – one great example is what’s been done to the wild turkey to develop the “broad-breasted white turkey” which is on millions of American tables today.

Before the 1940s, turkeys were raised on local farms and bore only a faint resemblance to what we now see in supermarkets. These pre-engineered turkeys (now called “heritage turkeys”) were closer to their wild roots, although thoroughly domesticated. Today’s supermarket turkey bears little resemblance to what exists in the wild:

 

Characteristic

Factory Turkey

Wild Turkey

Ability to Fly

NO

YES

Forage for Food

NO

YES

Gain Weight Quickly

YES

NO

Evade Predators

NO

YES

Run 25 mph

NO

YES

Mate

NO

YES

Yes, dear reader – with intensive breeding to maximize white breast meat, factory turkeys can no longer mate; artificial insemination is the rule. In addition, if you were to release a factory turkey into the wild, it would basically stand there waiting to be fed – no feed, it would starve to death, unless a predator got to it first – factory turkeys are docile and would be easy prey for even the slowest predator.

Factory turkeys are bred to gain weight quickly – typically a bird can reach 30 pounds by 18 weeks of intense feeding. The good thing about this is that turkey meat is a cheap protein source; also the good news is that hormones are not used in turkey production – turkeys grow quickly because they are bred to gain weight quickly and efficiently. While turkey is THE bird of choice for Thanksgiving meals (over 90% of Americans serve Turkey on Thanksgiving), it’s the fourth most popular meat – chicken (72 pounds per capita), beef (68 pounds per capita) and pork (52 pounds per capita) running ahead of turkey’s 18 pounds per capita.

And if you’re really interested in stunning your table companions with useless turkey facts:

  • In 2007, 271,685,000 turkeys were produced in the United States
  • The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds
  • The turkey was domesticated in Mexico and brought to Europe in the 16th century
  • Six hundred seventy-five million pounds of turkey are eaten each Thanksgiving in the United States
  • United States turkey growers will produce an estimated 271 million turkeys in 2008
  • In the midwestern United States in the mid to late 1800s, domestic turkeys were actually herded across the range in a manner similar to herding cattle
  • The ballroom dance the “turkey trot” was named for the short, jerky steps that turkeys take
  • Turkeys have heart attacks. The United States Air Force was doing test runs and breaking the sound barrier. Nearby turkeys dropped dead with heart attacks
  • Henry VIII was the first English King to enjoy turkey and Edward VII made turkey eating fashionable at Christmas
  • For 87% of people in the UK, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a traditional roast turkey
  • Turkey breeding has caused turkey breasts to grow so large that the turkeys fall over
  • Turkeys have been bred to have white feathers – white feathers have no spots under the skin when plucked
  • Turkey skins are tanned and used to make cowboy boots and belts
  • Israelis eat the most turkeys – 28 pounds per person

Personally, I can’t eat turkey breast without cranberry sauce or gravy; the reason is that turkeys grow so quickly that the amount of fat is minimal. The breast cooks faster than the dark meat and many cooks do not compensate, leading to dry white meat that tastes more like sawdust than turkey. This is why some people brine turkeys and some producers inject turkey breasts with juicifying solutions.

Factory Turkeys – an overclocking success story!

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