How America’s Thanksgiving turkeys got so huge

November 26, 2014 4:33 PM

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Thanksgiving, the most food-focused of American holidays, provides a hearty occasion for this reminder: The dominant fruits, vegetables, and animals in modern farming are products of highly unnatural selection. Consider corn, which evolved from a fairly small, hard-to-eat plant called teosinte into maize, which European settlers and subsequent generations of farmers tweaked and perfected into the starchier, less-colorful “sweet corn” sold in supermarkets today. Consider the variety of apple known as the Red Delicious.

While the number of individual turkeys raised and slaughtered in the US each year is declining, total production of turkey meat has remained stable, pound-wise (PDF). That’s because the average turkey comes with a lot more meat on its bones today than ever before.

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