Unexpectedly Intriguing!
November 22, 2015

In 2015, the estimated population of turkeys raised on U.S. farms fell to its lowest level in 29 years, dropping nationally by 4% to 228 million. That figure is down by nearly 75 million since the population of U.S. turkeys raised on U.S. farms peaked at 302.7 million in 1996.

Our chart below shows the evolution of annual turkey production at U.S. farms for each year from 1970 through 2015's preliminary estimate by the USDA.

Number of Turkeys Produced on U.S. Farms, 1970-2015

The USDA describes the drop in the number of U.S. farm-raised in 2015:

A combination of six states account for nearly two-thirds of the turkeys produced in the United States during 2015. The largest turkey producing state is Minnesota, at 40.0 million turkeys, down 12 percent from the previous year. North Carolina is up 2 percent from last year, producing 29.0 million turkeys. Arkansas produced 27.0 million turkeys, which is down 10 percent from the previous year. Indiana is up 1 percent from a year ago to 19.1 million turkeys. Missouri is up 6 percent from last year, producing 18.0 million turkeys. Virginia is up compared to the previous year by 4 percent at 17.4 million turkeys.

The big reason for the concentrated declines in Minnesota and Arkansas is that the poultry flocks raised on farms in these states were very negatively impacted by the incidence of avian influenza, which prompted a number of turkey producers to euthanize a large portion of their flocks to prevent the spread of the infectious and deadly disease after detecting its presence on their farms.

But that factor only accounts for the decline in the number of turkeys raised each year on U.S. farms in 2015. It doesn't explain the decline of 65.3 million turkeys that took place in the time from 1996 through 2014, after the population peaked in 1996.

So here's a deeper question to talk about around this year's Thanksgiving dinner: has the U.S. passed "peak turkey"? The hypothetical point in time when maximum turkey production has been reached, but has entered a slow but terminal decline, much like the concept of "peak oil" that has been hypothesized for the production of petroleum.

Otherwise, if you're not prepared with distracting conversation material like that, your Thanksgiving dinner experience could very well turn out like that depicted in the following video.

You can't say you weren't warned - you don't want to go through that kind of pain. Where Thanksgiving dinners are concerned, preparation is everything!...

Data Sources

National Turkey Federation. Sourcebook. [PDF Document]. October 2013.

National Turkey Federation. Statistics. [Online Article]. Accessed 22 November 2015.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Turkeys Raised. [PDF Document]. 30 September 2015.


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