Is Turkey Trending?

Turkey. It is a hot topic right now. You could even say its trending. People are trying to decide how big of a one to cook, how they should cook it, or should they even cook one at all. The President will pardon one lucky bird from doing his duty of becoming a meal. As of right now, the word turkey is trending with 620 thousand tweets, but the thing is, turkey was trending long before Twitter was even thought of.

History

In the beginning, the turkey was regarded as a god by the Aztecs and had two celebrations for the mighty turkey. It has fallen a little bit in esteem in today’s time. The Spanish were the first non-natives to discover turkeys.  They described them as a sort of peacock with great hanging chins. It would take years for the name turkey to stick to the bird. Because of Columbus and his mistake in geography, the birds were called anything from the rooster of India, the Peru bird, Lebanese bird, and the Ethiopian bird. The word turkey probably came from the Turkish merchants who knew of them or from the Indians that called them tukka, tukka because of the way they sounded.

The Aztecs weren’t the only ones to hold the turkey in high esteem. Benjamin Franklin,  thought the bird was of good moral, calling it a Bird of Courage. You may have heard that Franklin wanted to make the turkey our national bird; however, there is some dispute about that fact. In a letter to his daughter, he says that the eagle on the seal looks like a turkey. He went on to say that this was better as the eagle was not of good moral compared to the courageous turkey. Even if the turkey did not rise to be an emblem of America, it has certainly become iconic on at least one day of the year–Thanksgiving.

The Modern Turkey

turkeyToday’s domesticated turkey is much different than the ones that the Indians and explorers saw. Wild turkeys are brown and can fly, but domesticated turkeys (the ones in your supermarket) are white and cannot fly. The domesticated turkey is about twice the size of a wild turkey, explaining its flightless state. Domesticated turkeys have been bred to have white plumage so it does not discolor the meat. Wild turkeys need their brown plumage to blend in to their surroundings; they are also a lot quieter than their domestic cousins. That is probably a good thing so they don’t get eaten by predators. There are other heritage breeds of turkeys that come in gray, black and white, and red too.

Source:http://www.wideopenspaces.com/turkey-slam-pics/

Turkey Production Facts

turkey graph

  • Turkey production has increased 110% since 1970
  • In 2014, there were 237.5 million turkeys grown by farmers
  • North Carolina is the 2nd largest producer of turkeys behind Minnesota
  • The average person ate 15.8 pounds of turkey in 2014
  • Consumers turkey consumption has doubled in the last 30 years
  • 20,000-25,000 people are employed in America to help grow turkeys.

Turkey Trends

Cage Free: If you see this on a label, know that all turkeys are raised cage free. Domesticated turkeys are grown in large barns with free choice of water, plenty of feed, and shelter from the elements.

Hormone Free: Under federal law, it is illegal for any poultry to receive hormones. If you see this label, read the fine print. It will tell you that it is against the law. Don’t pay extra for a label.

Avian Influenza: This has been a major issue across America this year, claiming more than 40 million turkeys and chickens. While devastating for farmers and birds, it poses little threat to humans. No cases have been reported in American humans. It may pose a slight threat to your wallet, though. Turkey prices are around 15-20 cents higher than last year.

Thanksgiving Turkey

  • 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving
  • 46 million turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving
  • The average turkey bought for Thanksgiving weighs 16 pounds
  • 70% of the turkey is white meat and 30% is dark

The turkey has certainly proven itself as a bird worthy of esteem. It was trending hundreds of years ago, and it is still trending today. So, gobble up that gobbler and Happy Thanksgiving!

trending turkey


Sources:

National Turkey Federation

North Carolina Poultry Federation

Colonial Williamsburg

University of Illinois

The Smithsonian

PBS

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

USDA

The Poultry Site

Fact Filled Friday: Scrapie Tags *Bonus-Funny Story Included*

 

scrapieYesterday we took 4 animals (2 sheep and 2 goats) to the stockyard to be sold. While the story of getting them on the trailer has nothing to do with the purpose of this post, it is too funny not share, so I’m going to to go off track a bit.

Funny, irrelevant tangent:Our old large buck can be hard to handle. Not in the fact that he is aggressive, but in that he isn’t the friendliest fellow. He likes to be left alone, and is therefore, hard to catch. Well, it just so happened that he was snoozing in one of the shelters, so I rushed to block the entryway to trap him inside. Alec brought me a fence panel to lock him in. The shelter he was in is a grain bin cut in half, and we humans have to do a duck walk to get in there. So here we are– Alec, a 200 pound buck, and me blocking them both inside to duke it out. Alec grabbed the buck’s horns, and when he did, the buck bolted. He began to run in circles with Alec spinning on his butt like a spinning top, holding onto the buck’s horns. It was a funny sight to be sure. I tried videoing it, but was not nearly as coordinated as I needed to be (sorry, no video). The next step was to let the two wrestlers out of the shelter. The buck was pushing with all his might, and Alec still did not have his footing. I grabbed one horn and the buck’s beard, but at this point the buck and Alec were all sorts of tangled, Alec had to let go, and the buck and I went running. Alec yelled for me to let go; however, I’m a bit stubborn, so I held on until Alec got there. We both escorted him to the trailer. Phew!

OK, back on track… before leaving for the stockyard, we had to make sure that all the animals we were selling had scrapie tags. It is required that goats and sheep have scrapie tags so that if they were to come down with scrapie disease, they could be tracked down to their place of origin. The tag not only has a number that represents that individual animal, but it also has a longer number that represents the farm from which they came. Ours looks something like this:

tag

Not all tags are scrapie tags and an animal can have more than one tag, but a scrapie tag is a must have. Why is this scrapie tag system so important? Well, scrapie disease is a very serious matter. It is the goat/sheep version of mad cow disease. It is degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system that is fatal. There are only two countries that do not have scrapie–Australia and New Zealand. In 1947, scrapie entered the United States through a Michigan flock of sheep. In 2001, the USDA started an aggressive program to help eradicate scrapie. Since that time, scrapie has been reduced by 85% in the US! This has been accomplished through the identification program as well as other measures. According to the National Scrapie Education Initiative, the program includes:

  • Identification of pre-clinical infected sheep through live-animal testing and active slaughter surveillance.
  • Effective tracing of infected animals to their flock/herd of origin made possible as a result of the new identification requirements.
  • Providing effective cleanup strategies that will allow producers to stay in business, preserve breeding stock, and remain economically viable. USDA/APHIS will do this by providing the following to exposed and infected flocks/herds that participate in cleanup plans:
    1. Indemnity for high risk, suspect, and scrapie positive sheep and goats, which owners agree to destroy,
    2. Scrapie live-animal testing,
    3. Genetic testing, and
    4. Testing of exposed animals that have been sold out of infected and source flocks/herds.

As you can see, this is serious business. At the stockyard that we brought the animals to, there is a sign that says all sheep and goats unloaded must have a scrapie tag by USDA regulations. stock

As a farm, we tag anything that goes off of our property. Interestingly, not all states have the same regulations. North Carolina does not require tags for animals that are wethers (castrated male) and animals less than 12 months of age going directly to slaughter; however, other states make no exceptions to tags. Regardless, it is important to not only be aware of your state regulations, but to follow them. In this way, we can help eradicate scrapie in the United States. There have been huge strides made in the last 14 years, and it is up to us farmers to continue those strides.

And that is your fact for this Friday.

A World Without Ag Wednesdays: I want a steak

I just got out of class–6 hours of class. A lot, I know. After that much lecturing, discussions, and brain power, all I really want is a steak. Yes, it is past 9 o’clock pm and I want a steak. If you are around me much, you will quickly learn that I always crave steak or chicken wings. Tonight is a steak night, though. Sadly, all I have is pretzels and peanuts. Anyways, since my taste buds are not able to enjoy in the deliciousness of steak, I figured I’d feature steak on today’s “World Without Ag Wednesdays.” So, here goes. I’m not sure how wise this is considering the degree I want a steak right now.

Where does a steak come from?

Let’s ask the obvious question right? Well, it comes from a cow. The less obvious question is where from the cow does it come from? Well, it depends what kind of steak you want–sirloin, rib-eye, T-bone, filet mignon, etc. Here is a nifty diagram for you to get an idea:

imageJust because it all comes from a cow, does not mean that all steaks are equal. There are few things that make them different.

What makes a good steak?

There are three key things that effect how good a steak is besides how it is cooked–marbling, muscle groups, and quality grades.

Marbling–

Marbling is the internal fat in a steak. The more fat in the steak means it will be more flavorful; however, if there is too much fat it gets pretty gross.

marblingMuscle groups–

Depending on the location that the steak comes from, it has an effect on the tenderness of the meat. For example, a filet mignon comes from the tenderloin which is used less strenuously by the cow than say a leg muscle which is more fibrous. This is why cuts from the rump like the round steak are far less favorable and are typically ground for processed meats. Muscles like the loin provide a more tender cut of meat.

More than the degree that the muscle is used, the way muscle groups tie into each other also have an effect. So, a sirloin is a steak that is made up of many different ends of muscles. If you look back at the cuts diagram above, you can see that the sirloin comes at the end of the loin muscle and connects to other muscles in the hip. In this way, it is far less favorable because it is not as neat and tidy as say a T-bone, which is only two muscles.

Quality grades–

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) sets standards for what quality of beef can be made into steaks. They have come up with the following system that includes eight quality grades (prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner) and five maturity grades (A,B,C,D,E).  The maturity grades represent the following age groups:

  • A- 9 to 30 Months
  • B – 30 to 42 Months
  • C – 42 to 72 Months
  • D – 72 to 96 Months
  • E – More Than 96 Months

Only A and B maturity grades can be used for steaks. It is a pretty strenuous process, and I didn’t even mention yield grades.

 

maturity_chart

So, there you go. That is a little steak trivia for you. I would include how to cook a steak and a recipe, but I’m afraid that is going to be too much for me. Oh goodness, I can just smell it now… I’m so very thankful for the cattle business, a $49.5 billion industry. If only they did steak delivery.

 

Sources:

http://www.thecattlesite.com/articles/1279/beef-grades

http://www.bovineengineering.com/quality_grades.html

http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/animal-products/cattle-beef/statistics-information.aspx