Talking Turkey: Thanksgiving by the Numbers

It’s that time of year again when 115 million U.S. households[i]  gather around the table to give thanks for the year’s blessings and to share a traditional celebratory meal with friends and family. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the star of the show, so it’s not surprising that a full 88%[ii] of Americans report eating turkey, comprising one fifth of total annual consumption. [iii]

That’s a whole lot of birds. Just how many annually?  Last year it was 254 million[iv] gobblers, with 31%[v] consumed between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  When you do the math, that means that nearly 79 million turkeys appear on the table during the holidays – it’s open season in a big way.

Ever wonder where the turkey on your table was born and raised? Very likely one of thirteen states – while the “all other” states produce 35.4 million birds in total, the key providers are[vi]

Minnesota 45M
North Carolina 35M
Arkansas 29M
Indiana 17M
Missouri 17M
Virginia 16M
California 13M
Pennsylvania 6.5M
Ohio 5M
South Carolina 4.5M
Utah 4M
West Virginia 3.1M

Those cranberries that materialize once a year on your table?  They were probably harvested in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon or Washington.  The pumpkins?  They mostly grow in Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and New York.  And the sweet potatoes? You’ll find those in North Carolina, California and Mississippi. [vii]

It takes the collective nation to bring the national feast to the table, and rock-solid planning and supply chain management for grocery outlets to successfully source, distribute and sell 79 million turkeys and all of those essential seasonal sides. When you think about the complexities associated with the sheer volume of food and the limited time frame, it’s an impressive feat.

During the first Thanksgiving in 1621, wild turkeys were abundant in the region.  However, with no grocery store in sight, historians widely believe that the colonists ate whatever fowl they were able to catch- ducks, geese and swans very likely appeared on the table.  The event celebrated the collective bounty of the autumn harvest and the successful collaboration with the Wampanoag Tribe who had inhabited the region for 10,000 years before the European settlers arrived.

The Native Americans had taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, fish and hunt beaver, and the colonists in turn famously shared their feast – this very special meal is considered the basis for the Thanksgiving holiday.  It symbolizes peace, fellowship, collaboration and gratitude and rests at the heart of American tradition.

We wish you and yours a joyful and bountiful celebration – Happy Thanksgiving from Vitria.

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