Feast on Our Turkey Day Trivia and Pick Up Tips for Hosting an Ethical Holiday
Don't worry—we're not going to be a buzzkill when it comes to the best eating holiday of the year. But these fun facts about Thanksgiving might help you find small ways to celebrate a little more ethically. Whether you order up a heritage bird, carpool to your grandma's, or opt for organic butter in your mashed potatoes, there are lots of easy choices that will have you feeling good before you even sit down at the table.
When It Comes to Turkey, Big Breasts Aren't Best
The National Turkey Federation estimates that 91 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, gobbling down approximately 45 million birds. This year, instead of dining on the ubiquitous Broad-Breasted White (basically, any turkey you'll find at the supermarket), try a heritage breed like Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, or Narragansett. Yes, they're pricier (up to five times the price of a supermarket variety) but there's a definite ethical tradeoff. Oh, and they're full of flavor, which is more than we can say for a Butterball.
Turning Waste Into Wattage
Most turkey litter (that means droppings and wood-chip bedding) is used for fertilizer. But an electric power plant in Minnesota that opened in 2007 has discovered a way to use the mixture as fuel. It's currently using about 500,000 tons of litter per year to crank out 55 megawatts of power, according to The New York Times.
Driving Over the River and Through the Woods Sucks Up a Whole Lot of Gas
The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that 38.4 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2009. A little quick math: If all 38.4 million people drove only 50 miles, that's 1.92 billion miles. At 22 miles per gallon, that's a whopping 87 million gallons of gas.
We're not going to tell you not to visit your loved ones, but try to carpool, or squeeze into the hyrbrid for the trip.
Turkey Feathers: From Garbage to Your Garage
Most turkey feathers are either thrown away or processed into animal feed. But several new companies are finding ways to transform the feathers and their quills into consumer products like home insulation, car interiors, and water filters. Yep, water filters: Turns out, feather fibers can attract and trap contaminants such as uranium better than today's carbon-based filters. Cheers!
Opting for Organics? Be Prepared for Sticker Shock
Yes, eating organically is usually the right thing to do, but there’s no denying your wallet can take a hit when you swap traditional ingredients for organic versions. How big is the cost disparity? SmartMoney.com calculated that it costs about $100 more to buy all organic ingredients for a typical Thanksgiving feast.
They Talk Turkey in the Land of 10,000 Lakes
It’s a state known mostly for lakes and cold winters, but Minnesota is also the top turkey-producing state in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Minnesota farmers raised and slaughtered almost 45.5 million turkeys in 2009. It’s a very concentrated industry: six states—Minnesota, North Carolina, Missouri, Virginia, and California—raise two-thirds of the estimated turkey total. Most of these farms are huge factory operations that keep the animals confined and produce massive amounts of pollution.
Turducken Might Get More Buzz, but Tofurky is the Go-To Choice for Vegetarians
Tofurky isn’t a punchline anymore—the Hood River, Oregon, company sold 275,634 of its tofu-and-wheat-protein roasts in 2007. Though the Thanksgiving meal is what gave the company its buzz, the holiday only accounts for about 18 percent of its annual sales, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Heritage Breed Turkeys: Taste Better, Live Better
Most turkeys you find in the supermarket are Broad-Breasted Whites, which have been bred for two traits favorable for massive factory farming operations: large amounts of white meat and fast growth. (They grow to an average of 32 pounds in just 18 weeks!) But those oversized breasts render the gobblers incapable of flight or natural mating, and most operations pump them full of antibiotics to keep them from getting sick. Seek out an organic or heritage bird if you can.
Vegetarian Feasts on the Rise
Not every Thanksgiving table will have golden brown turkey as its centerpiece. A 2009 study from Vegetarian Times reveals that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults—that's 7.3 million people—follow a vegetarian-based diet. (There are about one million vegans, they found.) Women top this trend: Only 41 percent of vegetarians are male.