Turkey Stuffing

Thanksgiving Turkeys Are Twice As Big As They Were 75 Years Ago

That's a roast beast.
That’s a roast beast. Photo: Liza McCorkle

Now that everybody’s busy typing “how big of a turkey do I need” into Google, here’s a related body-mass-index-related question to consider: Just how much bigger is that feathered creature than it’s supposed to be?

Basically, antibiotics have super-sized several generations of Thanksgiving dinners, and in short, no matter what size Food Network suggests, your turkey is likely a whole lot bigger than its Depression-era turkey ancestors. Mother Jones crunched the numbers: Back in the 1930s, a normal turkey was about 13 pounds on average, while its 2014 counterpart, selectively bred for size and rather limited in mobility, weighs almost 30 pounds. Today’s turkeys have tons of white meat, but in exchange for that, turkeys muddle through a range of decidedly less delicious things like breast blisters and foot sores, and the hulking size gives them a stooped frame and bowed legs.

Male toms, in fact, can blimp up to 50 pounds, so huge that they’re useless for almost everything except eating and being eaten — turkey reproduction these days happens “almost exclusively” through artificial insemination. And ironically enough, as Mother Jones points out, breeding these megabirds is sort of wasted effort: One third of our Turkey Day meat goes in the trash, anyway.


Thanksgiving Turkeys Are Twice As Big As They Were 75 Years Ago