Farmers Already Working on Your '09 Bird

With Americans eating 17% of annual output today, planning ahead is crucial
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2008 1:43 PM CST
Farmers Already Working on Your '09 Bird
Most US turkeys, bred to produce as much breast meat as possible, are too large to mount naturally. Toms must be manually stimulated for semen, which is inserted into hens with a syringe.    (©Manchester Library)

Ever wonder how the grocery store bins fill up with so many turkeys come late November? Lots and lots of planning, explains Nina Shen Rastogi in Slate. Americans will eat about 46 million birds today—that accounts for 17% of all turkeys raised in the US in a given year. Farmers meet this huge single-day demand by planning way ahead—and manually “milking” male birds for semen.

Frozen turkeys could have met their demise as long as a year ago, thanks to the blast-freezing storage technique. Fresh turkeys require more forethought: The parents of your 2009 Butterball have already been ordered, to ensure they reach sexual maturity in time to produce fresh Thanksgiving turkeys come spring. Most of these birds are too large to reproduce the old-fashioned way—hence the oh-so-pleasant-sounding “milking.”
(More turkey stories.)

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