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When Turkeys Could Fly

October 5, 2015, 10:32:24
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Tyson was the world's biggest Turkey. He was the size of a large dog, weighed 86 pounds, and was raised by British farmer Philip Cook. Tyson lived his life in a barn eating until he was auctioned off for charity on December 12, 1989. He sold for $6,692. Tyson was a bird that never got a chance to fly.

 

Back when the United States was founded in 1776, Thanksgiving was yet to be invented and turkeys were wild, could run at speeds of 25 MPH, and could fly at 55 MPH. They slept in trees and were a peaceful sort of birds that minded their own business. Today, turkeys are bred in barns and weigh so much they can hardly stand up. Modern, corn-fed turkeys can't fly or run and have trouble sleeping due to crowded "housing" conditions and the stress created by the yearly reduction in their community for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners! 

 

Every year over 50 million turkeys give up their lives for American Thanksgiving dinners. Ovens all over the USA get fired up to bake these huge birds and will use over 150 million Kwh of electricity leaving a carbon footprint equal to 70,000 tons of greenhouse gases. An average US Thanksgiving dinner portion has 3 pounds of turkey meat that required over 10 pounds of feed-grain to produce - that's 500 million pounds of grain every year just to feed turkeys for Thanksgiving dinners. And, since Christmas dinners with turkey are celebrated all over the Christian world, there will be even more baking when Christmas dinners are made.

 

Thanksgiving is America's longest holiday. It is the only guaranteed 4-days-in-a-row bank holiday in the USA when almost all schools and government offices are closed. Unlike Christmas, which is officially only a one day holiday, and Easter, which always falls on a Sunday, and the other one-day holidays that fall before or after a weekend, Thanksgiving is a sure 4-day window.

 

Thanksgiving is also non-religous (or at least non-denominational) and it is very "American". All this makes Thanksgiving USAs biggest yearly family ceremony. And with families spread all across the 50 US states, Thanksgiving means massive traffic jams, and over-booked airlines, trains and buses as millions of Americans rush "home" for their Thanksgiving turkey dinner. This massive migration together with all the baking, leaves a huge carbon footprint that could be as much as 300,000 tonnes of greenhouse gasses.

 

Thanksgiving is an American form of a traditional harvest celebration. The very first Thanksgiving happened in November, 1621 at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts where the first European settlers had arrived there just a year earlier on the sailing ship Mayflower. The ship had been bound for Hudson Bay to establish a colony, but the winter weather sent the ship off course and it was forced to land at Plymouth. A year later, the new settlers ran out of food and did not know how to find or grow more in the new land. The local Native American Indian tribe shared their food supplies and saved the settlers from starvation.

 

But it took 242 years before Thanksgiving became officially recognized as an American holiday. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the 3rd Thursday in November was a national day of thanks and prayer, then, in 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the official Thanksgiving date to the 4th Thursday of November.

 

One very strange Thanksgiving custom was started by President Harry Truman in 1947 - he decided to give an official Presidential pardon to one lucky turkey that escaped the butcher's chopping block. Ever since then, each Thanksgiving the President of the United States pardons 1 turkey as a gesture of clemency, but another is chosen to take his place - its a "Tale of Two Turkeys"! One turkey gets to live and is flown 1st class to Disneyland where he is grand marshal in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the other winds up in the White House ovens.

 

Americans love to "talk turkey". Recipes for turkey baking and the special stuffing mix that goes inside are passed down for generations and are as different as the families that make them. All this leads to a great deal of discussion and takes up millions of pages of cookbook space, thousands of hours of radio and TV time, and 16 million web pages. It can also lead to marathon arguments that often set tempers to boil and stir up anger that can ruin family relationships for years at a time.

 

Science tells us that turkey meat is "healthy" with a high protein and low fat content. But did you know that turkey meat also contains an amino acid called Tryptophan that reacts with the human body and is like a sedative to make you sleepy. So, as Thanksgiving Day comes to a close and all the family recipe arguments are sedated by millions of delicious turkey meals, millions of Americans will snore through the Thanksgiving night. In the morning they will wake up to leftovers. On Sunday the mad dash traffic jam reverses as everyone heads back home to sleep it off.


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