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Turkey Economics, Plus Fun Facts And A Recipe On The Side

Abby Wendle
Harvest Public Media

Farmers raised fewer turkeys this year than they have in the past three decades - about 235 million gobblers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ann Knowles raised 70 broad breasted bronze and white turkeys on her small farm in western Illinois.

She coops up the plump birds at night to guard against predators, but lets them roam freely during the day.

“They get to strut. And they chase in bugs,” Knowles said. “So I think their little dinky brains are probably pretty happy.”

The short supply has raised wholesale turkey prices to an all-time high this Thanksgiving, but grocery stores probably won’t pass that cost along to the customer. Most supermarkets keep turkey prices low to attract shoppers looking for all the Thanksgiving dinner fixings.

During a visit, Knowles shared some fun facts about turkeys and turkey farming, and a recipe.

So, in honor of Turkey Day:

Turkey Talk

  • Turkeys are more interactive than other kinds of poultry. For instance, they’ll run to the fence when you call them. They also make good doorbells because they gobble in unison when a person arrives.
  • Male turkeys sometimes sprout a dark feathered plume on their chest called a “beard.” Some wild turkeys’ beards grow to almost a foot long.
  • The fleshy flap that hangs over the turkey’s beak is called a “snood.” They can retract and extend it. Female turkeys prefer long-snooded males. Males will peck and pull at their opponents’ snood while fighting.
  • Knowles learned the hard way that turkeys need a lot of protein in their diet. She said the first year she raised them, there was some cannibalism in the flock because they were hungry for it. She’s now added soybean meal and crushed up egg shells to the grass, oats, and veggies they eat.

Turkey Brine Recipe


½ gallon cider or 1 can concentrated orange juice

1 gallon water

1 cup salt

½ cup brown sugar





Mix in a pot, cider, ¼ of the gallon of water, salt, brown sugar, allspice, and rosemary.

Heat mix on the stove, bringing the broth to near boiling.

Remove and add the ¾ of a gallon of water to help the broth cool.

When the broth has cooled, pour it into a large pot or bucket.

Supmerge the turkey.

Leave in a cold part of the house or on the porch (make sure the container has a lid so critters don’t get in) for 24 hours.

Roast your turkey!

Abby Wendle joined Harvest Public Media in September of 2014, and reports from Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Ill. She came to Harvest from Tulsa, Okla., where she produced radio for This Land Press. That included partnerships with public radio programs The Story, State of the Re:Union, and The CBC’s Day 6. Her work has earned awards from The Third Coast International Audio Festival, KCRW's Radio Race, The Missouri Review and The National Association of Black Journalists. She has worked as an assistant producer for The Takeaway and interned at Radiolab. Abby has a bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., and a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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