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Food and Drink

Turkeys lurking in our midst

It's that time of year again, when thousands and thousands of turkeys come lurking into our midst.

Given it's been the sacrificial lamb, I mean, dish, this time of year for centuries, at least in North America and the U.K., it's pretty likely you're going to be joining in a taste of Thanksgiving turkey somewhere, somehow this holiday weekend.

It might get reinterpreted as a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce from your favourite deli, or a lovely Mexican-style turkey stew. (Wild turkey meat was traditionally big in what is now Mexico; in fact, the peoples of Mesoamerica first domesticated wild turkeys).

However you have it, enjoy, for not only does turkey taste great - especially the dark meat, which for some unfathomable reason Canadians prefer not - it's good for you, too: relatively low in fat, high in protein and a good source of minerals and vitamins.

It also contains some tryptophan, which has a mellowing, sleep-inducing effect on your pineal gland, but so do a lot of other foods as well, such as shrimp, tuna, halibut and even beef.

It's far more likely you'll fall asleep after your Thanksgiving dinner from, A., too much food and booze or, B., boring dinner conversation. I can't do much about A., but when it comes time for festive conversation, you can easily assemble your own take on all things "turkey" and "Thanksgiving" from the offerings below, with apologies to Harper's magazine.

•Average number of turkeys Nesters Food Market in Whistler sells at Thanksgiving: 700

•Average number of servings produced from an averaged sized turkey (not including leftovers): 8

•Number of servings of turkey in Whistler whipped up from turkeys from Nesters alone: 5,600

•Year that the Pilgrims held a Thanksgiving dinner in New England in the horseshoe-shaped bay surrounding what is now Cape Cod: 1620

•Ordinal position of the Pilgrim's 1620 Thanksgiving dinner, as mythologized in Canada and the U.S.: 1st

•Year that English explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Orient but failed, held a formal ceremony in what is now called Newfoundland to give thanks for surviving the long journey: 1578

•Year that Canada's government declared "A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed ... to be observed on the second Monday in October": 1957

•Farm cash receipts in Canada from turkey in 2006 (the last available census data from Statistics Canada): $278.5 million

•Number of turkeys consumed on Christmas Day, 2009, in the U.K.: 7.7 million

•Number of turkeys on farms across farms in Canada in 2006: 7.7 million

•Number of farms with turkeys that same year: Approximately 3,200, down about one quarter since the previous census in 2001

•Number of kilograms of turkey those 7.7 million turkeys produced (live weight): 188.7 million

•Average number of kilograms of boneless turkey meat consumed in Canada each year, on a per capita basis: 2.2

•Percentage increase in this amount is since the late 1970s: 0

•Percentage that chicken consumption has increase in Canada over the last 20 years: 50, making it the second most popular meat after beef

•Ontario's ranking in turkey production in Canada: No.1

•Average number of turkeys living on each farm in Canada on Census Day, 2006: 2,400

•Range of provincial averages for turkey farm populations: A few hundred to over 4,000

•Number of turkeys living on the largest turkey farm in Canada on Census Day, 2006: 55,806

•Average flock size on large turkey farms in Canada: More than 15,000

•Average number of turkeys living on small farm operations, suited for home consumption and small local markets: 21

•Number of kilograms of turkey meat exported in 2006, most of it dark meat since the domestic market is primarily for white meat: 27.2 million

•Ranking of export markets South Africa and the U.S. hold for Canadian turkey meat: No. 1 and 2, respectively

•Percentage equivalent of domestic production that Canada's turkey imports amounted to in 2006: 5.5

•Number of terms generally used to describe the turkey market: 4, namely "hens" for females, "toms" for males, "broilers" for whole birds (also labeled as "young turkeys" for consumers), and "breeders" for hens and toms used to produce fertilized eggs

•Number of weeks it takes to mature the average broiler or young turkey in Canada: 10-12

•Average weight of these birds, in kilograms: Less than 6.2

•Average number of weeks it takes to mature a tom turkey: 17-20

•Average weight of a tom turkey, in kilograms: 10.8, and up

•Number of days, on average, that a turkey egg incubates: 28

•Average age, in days, of a baby turkey, called a poult, when it's separated from it's mother and sent to a turkey farm: 1

•Number of kilograms of feed it takes, on average, to raise a 14-kg tom turkey: About 38

•Decade that the turkey breed of choice in Canada, the Broad Breasted White, became available through selective breeding: 1960s

•Time period that hunting and loss of habitat severely impacted North America's wild turkey populations: Early 20th century

•Number of wild turkeys estimated in North America in the early 1970s: 1.3 million

•Number of wild turkeys estimated in North America today: 7 million

•Date that wild turkey re-introduction programs began in North America: 1940s

•Number of tons of turkey litter (droppings mixed with bedding material) that a power plant in Minnesota uses annually to generate 55 megawatts of power: 500,000



Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who really doesn't like giblets in her turkey stuffing.