This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
American turkey producers will raise close to two hundred seventy million of the big birds this year. That is the estimate of the National Turkey Federation, an industry group. Tens of millions will be the traditional star of Thanksgiving holiday meals this Thursday and next month at Christmas.
Americans eat more turkey throughout the year, and more of it in general, than in the past. The federation says people ate an average of seven and one-half kilograms of turkey last year. But they ate three times as much pork, four times as much beef and five times as much chicken.
Lamb was a distant fifth in popularity behind turkey.
Turkeys produced more than three thousand million dollars in farm earnings last year. The five top producing states were Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia and Missouri. The top five export markets for turkey meat from the United States were Mexico, China, Canada, Russia and Taiwan.
Turkey is sold many ways -- frozen, fresh, whole, cut into parts, ground up like hamburger, thinly sliced, roasted, fried, smoked. People eat it in sandwiches, in soups, in salads, in sausages and more. But at Thanksgiving people generally buy a whole bird -- in some cases, all prepared and ready to serve.
Modern turkeys are designed for industrial production and for a market where white meat is more popular than dark. The federation says a turkey usually has about seventy percent white meat.
Turkey hens lay eighty to one hundred eggs in a season. Producers use artificial insemination to fertilize the eggs. The turkeys grow quickly. In fourteen weeks, a hen weighs seven kilograms and is ready for market. Males take eighteen weeks to reach fourteen kilograms.
Most turkeys are raised what is known as the conventional way. But some higher-priced birds are raised outdoors, without antibiotic drugs and with a diet of feed grown without chemicals.
Some small farms raise what are called heritage turkeys. These native birds are smaller and take longer to grow. But they mate naturally and have more of a balance of dark and white meat. Heritage turkeys have a stronger taste that some people like.
But turkeys are sold by weight, and people often buy big ones for the holidays. So price may be the biggest consideration of all.
And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. You can learn more about Thanksgiving at WWW.51VOA.COM. I'm Shep O'Neal.