Unnatural Turkeys (Ep. 49)

In our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast, we’re talking turkey, literally. (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript.) Americans are expected to eat more than 40 million of the big birds this month for Thanksgiving, so we asked the same question everyone's thinking: where do they all come from? The answer might surprise you – it certainly seemed to surprise Kai Ryssdal.

Specifically, the question is this: of all the commercially raised turkeys in the U.S., what percentage are the product of artificial insemination?

The answer, oddly enough, is 100 percent. Why? Well, it's a supply-and-demand story. Because Americans particularly love to eat turkey breast meat (a great delivery platform for gravy!), turkeys have been selectively bred over the years to have bigger and bigger breasts. So big, in fact, that when it comes time for a male turkey to naturally reproduce with a female, his massive breast prevents him from getting close enough to complete the act.

Some Turkey Facts to Consider, and Why You Don't Want Al Gore Doing the Roasting

‘Tis the season for turkey shopping, and the price is right. According to this Wall Street Journal squib, the price of whole frozen turkeys has fallen from 94 cents per pound last year to just 66 cents per pound, with Wal-Mart leading the way, selling turkeys for just 40 cents per pound. (Note: price estimates vary.)

Why Roast a Turkey?

Photo: cobalt123 According to this collection of turkey statistics, “more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the U.S. at Thanksgiving.” In a country of some 300 million people, that’s one whole turkey for every 6.67 people. According to this report, the average Thanksgiving gathering has about 11 people. So that’s nearly two […]

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone

We are taking a couple days off, and hope you are too. FWIW, the tryptophan in your turkey may not be what’s making you groggy; it may, however, make you more trusting. Perhaps Paul Feldman should consider selling turkey bagels.