This year’s election cycle turned a bit ugly near the end, with vitriolic voters calling each other’s candidates turkeys of one kind or another. Defined as such, a turkey can be a person or thing of little appeal—a dud or a loser.
Farmers and home cooks alike greatly prefer the culinary definition of turkey, a large bird used for food.
Utah has a great tradition of raising turkeys, with the Moroni Feed Company and its iconic Norbest brand leading the way. Norbest has its roots in Utah starting in the 1920s as a farmer-owned cooperative in Sanpete County with a goal of producing great turkeys for larger, East-coast markets.
Turkey consumption has more than doubled since 1970 and is now at 16.1 pounds per person per year, according to the National Turkey Federation. Consumers are gobbling up turkey because they like the taste and nutritional value.
The time of year when people eat turkey has also changed over the years. In 1970, 50 percent of all turkey consumed was eaten during the holidays. Today that number is around 31 percent. Clearly, more people than ever before enjoy eating turkey year-round.
The cost of a Thanksgiving feast, with turkey on the center of the table, is different now as well.
When the American Farm Bureau Federation first began tracking the retail cost for turkey and all the trimmings for 10 (in 1986) the average was $28.74.
Fast forward to today and we’ll drop $49 and some change, on average, for food items for a classic Thanksgiving dinner—$49.48 to be exact, according to Farm Bureau’s national survey of retail prices.
But when you adjust for inflation, we’ll pay less, on average, for the same items today compared to 27 years ago. That’s a really good deal.
Traditions such as the feast centered around turkey are an important part of celebrating Thanksgiving for most Americans, whether they live in a rural area, on a farm or ranch, in the city or suburbs, or anywhere in between.
One such tradition was started by Utah’s own Norbest company in 1936, in the depths of the Great Depression, when the company presented President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a turkey just prior to Thanksgiving. This holiday tradition continues today through annual presentations by the National Turkey Federation.
Playing football, hunting or watching the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade also rank high on the list of favored Thanksgiving traditions. Visiting a farm or ranch around Thanksgiving, maybe not so much, although I’d like to see that change.
During this holiday season, I am encouraging farmers and ranchers to talk in-person or through social media to consumers about the food that they grow or the livestock and poultry they raise.
Today’s Agriculture – the Faces and Places of Your Food, Fiber and Fuel, is a good place to start online if you’re looking to connect with a farmer through social media. Here you can explore and subscribe to blogs written by real farmers and ranchers (Blogs Fresh From the Farm), watch entertaining and informative short videos (Meet Your Farmers and Ranchers), pick up food and farm tidbits (Learn the Facts) and much more. Visit http://www.fb.org/todaysag and see for yourself.
Whether you choose to connect with a farmer a stone’s throw away from your backyard or one thousands of miles away via social media, Thanksgiving is an ideal time to reflect on and be thankful for our abundant, affordable and diverse food selections we enjoy in America.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Leland Hogan is a cattle rancher and hay farmer from Tooele County, and is the President of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation.