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Gingersnap
11-25-2010, 09:56 AM
Today's turkey is a product of science and popular demand

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY

A few turkey facts to ponder as dinner roasts on Thursday. Despite some Internet rumors, turkeys aren't so breast-heavy that they fall over in a stiff wind. Though they are too large-breasted to breed naturally. And it's true: They can't fly.

Indeed, breeding has gotten very technical for modern birds. Tom turkeys (that's boy turkeys to those not raised on farms) have been selected over the years for maximum breast growth, because that's what the public buys, says Sherrie Rosenblatt of the National Turkey Federation in Washington, D.C.

An average tom today weighs 33 pounds, and 62% of its usable meat is on its breast.

The change in turkey size actually began in the 1930s.

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"Turkeys used to be huge, but families after World War I were smaller. People said, 'I don't need a turkey the size of a Shetland pony,' so we bred a turkey that would meet their needs," says Sandy Miller Hays, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

From 1936 to 1941 breeders at USDA's Beltsville, Md., Agricultural Research Center created a smaller turkey that would fit the era's smaller ovens and families.

Another switch was from the iconic dark-feathered Bronze turkey to a white-feathered one. Bronze turkeys were a cross between European domestic turkeys brought from Europe by colonists and native American turkeys. They've been a fixture since the 1700s.

But "The consumer didn't like pigment in the carcass," says Patricia Hester, a professor of poultry science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. A dark-feathered bird would have black splotches on the carcass, "so they bred it to be white."

Consumers also didn't like seeing dark pin feathers. "It's the visuals," says Nick Anthony, a professor of poultry breeding and genetics at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

The result was the Beltsville Small White, which averaged about 13 pounds for a hen and 23 pounds for a tom, says Anthony.

It was a huge hit with consumers and by 1955 it was "king of the turkey market," Miller Hays says.

Then, beginning in the 1960s, consumers and retailers began to want more white meat. That's when breeders began creating a larger-breasted turkey, which eventually resulted in the Broad-Breasted White, which today makes up 99% of all turkeys grown in the United States, Anthony says.

The Broad-Breasted White really is broad-breasted, so much so that it no longer easily can breed naturally. "They're anatomically such that you can't get things to match up," Miller Hays says delicately.

"He can't mount," poultry scientist Hester explains.

That meant that turkeys needed to be artificially inseminated.

More turkey talk at the link.

USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2010-11-24-turkeytalk24_ST_N.htm)

Rockntractor
11-25-2010, 10:51 AM
I need to keep my appetite ready for that turkey at lunch, I just sucked down a can of toffee peanuts!:(

Kay
11-25-2010, 11:03 AM
I got into the pumpkin pie early this morning
and snuck a piece with my coffee for breakfast! :)
Maybe no one will notice.....

Rockntractor
11-25-2010, 11:05 AM
I got into the pumpkin pie early this morning
and snuck a piece with my coffee for breakfast! :)
Maybe no one will notice.....
Did you sneak into the whipped cream too?
I just remembered , I have a piece of pecan pie left!

Rockntractor
11-25-2010, 03:54 PM
Another turkey down the drain, delicious!