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Focus on Agriculture

November 12, 2012

Time to Talk Turkey

By Cyndie Sirekis

This year’s election cycle turned a bit ugly near the end, with vitriolic voters calling each other’s candidates turkeys of one kind or another. Defined as such, a turkey can be a person or thing of little appeal...a dud or a loser.

Farmers and home cooks alike greatly prefer the culinary definition of turkey, a large bird used for food.

Turkey consumption has more than doubled since 1970 and is now at 16.1 pounds per person per year, according to the National Turkey Federation. Consumers are gobbling up turkey because they like the taste and nutritional value.

The time of year when people eat turkey has also changed over the years. In 1970, 50 percent of all turkey consumed was eaten during the holidays. Today that number is around 31 percent. Clearly, more people than ever before enjoy eating turkey year-round.

The cost of a Thanksgiving feast, with turkey on the center of the table, is different now as well.

When the American Farm Bureau Federation first began tracking the retail cost for turkey and all the trimmings for 10 (in 1986) the average was $28.74.

Fast forward to today and we’ll drop $49 and some change, on average, for food items for a classic Thanksgiving dinner – $49.48 to be exact, according to Farm Bureau’s national survey of retail prices.

But when you adjust for inflation, we’ll pay less, on average, for the same items today compared to 27 years ago. That’s a really good deal.

Traditions such as the feast centered around turkey are an important part of celebrating Thanksgiving for most Americans, whether they live in a rural area, on a farm or ranch, in the city or suburbs, or anywhere in between.

Playing football, hunting or watching the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade also rank high on the list of favored Thanksgiving traditions. Visiting a farm or ranch around Thanksgiving…maybe not so much, although AFBF President Bob Stallman would like to see that change.

“During this holiday season, I am encouraging farmers and ranchers to talk in-person or through social media to consumers about the food that they grow,” Stallman said recently when the results of AFBF’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner cost survey were announced.

Today’s Agriculture, the Faces and Places of Your Food, Fiber and Fuel, is a good place to start online if you’re looking to connect with a farmer through social media. Here you can explore and subscribe to blogs written by real farmers and ranchers (Blogs Fresh From the Farm), watch entertaining and informative short videos (Meet Your Farmers and Ranchers), pick up food and farm tidbits (Learn the Facts) and much more. Visit http://www.fb.org/todaysag and see for yourself.

If connecting with farmers in person in your local community sounds appealing, check out the Agriculture Department’s National Farmers Market Directory. Serving as the official count of the nation's farmers’ markets, this resource is a treasure trove of information for anyone interested in local food production and regional food systems. Learn more at http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/.

Whether you choose to connect with a farmer a stone’s throw away from your backyard or one thousands of miles away via social media, Thanksgiving is an ideal time to reflect on and be thankful for the food diverse selection we enjoy in America.

Cyndie Sirekis is director of news services at the American Farm Bureau Federation.