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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of


NUNLEY: If Benjamin Franklin had had his way, the turkey would have been our national bird, but he didn't, and now it's practically our national dish instead. The turkey got its name through one of Christopher Columbus's naming errors. He felt the turkey was a kind of peacock and called it tuka, an Asian word for that other bird. The black and brown bird Columbus saw, which has come to symbolize Thanksgiving, is commercially obsolete. Today's turkeys have white feathers. They've been bred that way to eliminate the unsightly dark pin feathers that showed up on the previous model. There are 13,766 turkey farms in the US, and they produce some 87 million birds every year. The National Turkey Federation says per capita consumption of turkeys has increased tenfold in the last 20 years. We're each expected to gobble more than 19 pounds of turkey this year. There's a 2 to 1 preference for white meat in the US. No reliable statistics on who usually gets the wishbone.



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