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Intersection of Life and Faith

Talking turkey

  • Candice Atherton Women's Channel Editor
  • 1999 11 Nov
  • COMMENTS
Talking turkey
Did you know that on Thanksgiving, we Americans gobble up approximately 675 million pounds of turkey? The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday bonanza deeply affects the turkey industry, which sells 25% of its annual production between these two celebrations, (the rest of the year is just gravy.)

Turkey and America
Despite the American declaration of turkey as the official celebrational meat (which really makes you want to shake your tail feathers, unless of course you're a turkey), in per capita turkey consumption our nation actually places second globally. We lag behind Israel where they annually polish off 27.8 pounds per person compared to America's 18.0 pounds. In the United States, the turkey rage is far from thawing because since 1975, consumption has increased 225% and contributes to an ever increasing market share as beef eaters recognize that from a health perspective, cows may be for the birds.

The rise in turkey popularity is due in part to the increased awareness of its nutritional value, low fat content, and that proverbial selling point for meats around the globe -- it tastes like chicken. However, urban legends (probably started by the beef industry) threaten to carve into turkey demand with the rumor that eating too much turkey will make you feel sleepy. The drowsiness is blamed upon the tryptophans in turkey meat, a natural sedative which only takes effect on an empty stomach with no protein present. So before you go cold turkey on the bird, realize that it's more likely that your post-Thanksgiving coma is probably because you ate too much.

Turkeys and Presidents
The Office of the President of the United States has always maintained a close relationship with the turkey. In an act that could be argued in some administrations as mere self preservation, United States Presidents have spoken out on the bird's behalf. Since 1947, each President has, in accordance with the National Turkey Federation, spared the life of one lucky tom in a ceremony at the White House. As First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, quipped in 1998, "This turkey will go on living and being a symbol of the important power of the President of the United States."

It was a battle between Presidents to create the holiday that made turkeys famous. George Washington designated Thanksgiving day as a time to commemorate the first pilgrim celebration. Thomas Jefferson later decided that Thanksgiving was not worth celebrating (he was such a doubting tom . . .) But Abraham Lincoln reestablished it as a national holiday in 1863 after a campaign to set aside a day to thank God for his goodness and to remind people that they have the freedom to worship as they pleased.

In 1939, the Depression years had deflated Christmas sales and President Franklin Roosevelt was hen-pecked into changing the date of Thanksgiving so it would extend the Christmas shopping season. Since then, the 4th Thursday of November has been set aside as a day of thanks and a kickoff for shopping.

Even Benjamin Franklin was a steadfast turkey supporter as he argued to make it the national bird in lieu of the bald eagle. He defamed the eagle as a bird of bad moral character due to its tendencies to rob prey from other animals and display a generally fowl temperament. The turkey, he argued, "is a much more respectable bird and withal a true original Native of North America." He was probably referring to wild turkeys, which were more prominent In Franklin's day. By the way, while you might think that wild and domestic turkeys were birds of a feather, they differ greatly with the free birds achieving speeds of up to 55 mph in flight and demonstrating a remarkable self reliance. Domesticated turkeys on the other hand, are rather slow and tend to be served their food until the day they're served as food.

Turkeys and Thanks
But for all the mocking that turkeys receive, we do reserve a special place in our hearts (as well as our stomachs) for the bird that makes us remember to give thanks. No other species can boast such statistics for sacrifice on behalf of human thankfulness. No other bird can serve as the centerpiece for the gathering of family and friends. No where on earth can you find a symbol for all that we have to be thankful for. The only entity that beats the turkey in terms of sacrifice, gathering family, and signifying the ultimate gratitude can be found when we look Heavenward. And since we know that turkeys can't fly above us, looking toward Heaven can lead us to only one thing, Him.


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