How Thanksgiving dinner gets from the farm to the table

By Olivia Clark
As you sit down to enjoy a feast at Thanksgiving, have you thought about where the turkey and all the fixin’s come from? Not only are there many people who don’t know where all the delicious details of Thanksgiving dinner are grown but many don’t know how it arrived on their plate. Take a look at the turkey and a few of America’s favorite sides to keep things a little more in perspective this holiday season.Turkey
Typically, many consumers purchase a turkey from a local grocery store. Store-bought turkeys come from farms where a hen (a female turkey) lays an egg while housed in the layer house. The egg is then collected and incubated for 28 days until it hatches. Once the poult (the young turkey) hatches, it is sorted based on the sex of the animal. Once the sex is determined, it will be sent to a farm within the first 24 hours. Poults remain on this farm until they reach market age and weight.
On the farm, young turkey start out in a brooder house, a barn for poults, and stay there until about eight weeks of age. Once the birds have grown too big for the brooder house, they are split into two groups in two separate buildings called the Grow-out Building. When the turkeys have reached 20 weeks old or about 40 pounds for a tom (male adult turkey), they are now in market range and are sent to the processing plant. When in the processing plant, the birds are randomly sampled to ensure quality and safety of the animal. A whole hen will weigh approximately 16 pounds after processing with 70 percent consisting of white meat and 30 percent dark meat. The toms will weigh more than the hens. Turkeys that are purchased can be conventional, free range, antibiotic free or organic.
Although many may prefer buying a store-bought turkey, others still prefer the more historic approach of hunting down their Thanksgiving centerpiece and enjoying the pride of providing for their family. The greater debate may not be how they received their turkey but how they prepare it: baked, deep fried, grilled, marinated, and the list goes on.

Yams are a special crop that require almost a year to develop. Yams are often mistaken for sweet potatoes, but yams have a longer growing season and are grown in Africa and Asia because it’s are a sub-tropical plant. Yams are then imported into the United States. Yams can be as small as regular potatoes or grow to be as large as 5 feet long. Yams are typically peeled, boiled and mashed or dried to be ground and cooked into porridge. Sweet potatoes grow from about 100 to 150 days and are grown primarily in the southern states; however, North Carolina is the number one producing state of sweet potatoes in the U.S. Sweet potatoes are usually peeled and boiled or baked.

Potatoes are the leading vegetable crop in the United States. For many people, mashed potatoes or some form of potatoes, are a mainstay for meals in the South. Potatoes are grown year round; however, 90 percent of the production harvested in the fall from what is planted in the spring. “Seed potatoes” are cut from sprouted whole potatoes, usually certified seed potatoes and planted with their eyes up in rows. The top producing state is Idaho followed by Washington, Wisconsin, Colorado and North Dakota.

Stuffing is a side dish that finds its way on many tables during the Thanksgiving holiday. There isn’t much information about how it made its grand entrance to the feast, but some believe it was due to needing support for the bird’s hollowness after being cooked. Others believe the turkey was once stuffed with vegetables to fill the hollow parts of the turkey. Stuffing can be cooked on the stove top or inside the turkey. Most stuffing recipes include herbs, spices, vegetables, bread crumbs and some kind of liquid, such as chicken broth, stock or pan drippings.

As you sit down to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade or a football game, or settle in for a nap after all that turkey, take a moment to be thankful. Whether it’s being thankful for your faith, your family, your freedom or the farmer who produced the food on your table, you are fortunate and have so much to be grateful for.

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