SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — We’ve all heard about the first Thanksgiving but chances are, our ancestors were eating turkey long before the 1600s. The South Dakota Poultry Association says turkey fossils that date back 10 million years ago have been found.
While Americans traditionally eat Turkey on Thanksgiving, it’s also been eaten on the moon. When Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin sat down for their first meal on the moon, their foil food packets contained roasted turkey and all the trimmings, the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association said.
Americans consumption of turkey has doubled since 1970, the National Turkey Federation said. Americans are expected to eat 5.3 billion pounds of turkey in 2019, according to the USDA.
Turkey sandwiches account for 48% of all turkey consumption. Some of that sandwich turkey may come from Dakota Provisions in Huron, South Dakota. The company processes about 5 million turkeys a year, company chief executive officer Ken Rutledge said.
That turkey is processed into products like sliced turkey for sandwiches and it’s sold coast to coast in America, Rutledge said. Products even go to Mexico and China.
South Dakota raises on average 5 million turkeys a year, which makes Dakota Provision and its 44 Hutterite Colony producers the largest producers and processors of turkey in the state.
Minnesota raises the most turkeys of any state. About 450 farmers raise between 44 and 46 million turkeys a year. The average turkey farmer raises three flocks per year. Each of these flocks is an average size of about 15,000 birds.
Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, Minnesota, processes 150 million pounds of turkey a year. The plant employs 400 people, according to its website.
Some of that turkey may end up on your Thanksgiving table as the plant produces whole birds, breasts and other products.
Even Sesame Street’s Big Bird has a connection to turkeys. It’s rumored that his feathers are modeled after a turkey’s feathers, the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association says.
Turkeys are believed to have about 3,500 feathers at maturity.
The USDA listed the economic impact of turkey production at $3.88 billion in 2018. The U.S. is expected to export 637 million pounds of turkey this year.