Category Archives: thanksgiving

Rules to Follow for a Happy Thanksgiving

We hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving. To help achieve that goal, Michael Wade has crafted 10 rules to follow to help ensure your Thanksgiving experience is a happy one.

  1. Thou shalt not discuss politics at the dinner. There is next to no chance that you'll convert anyone and any hard feelings that are generated may last long after the pumpkin pie is finished. Why spoil a good meal?
  2. Thou shalt limit discussion of The Big Game. This is mainly directed at the men who choose to argue plays, records, and coaches while their wives stare longingly at the silverware. The sharp silverware.
  3. Thou shalt say nice things about every dish. Including the bizarre one with Jello and marshmallows.
  4. Thou shalt be especially kind to anyone who may feel left out. Some Thanksgiving guests are tag-alongs or, as we say in the business world, "new to the organization." Make a point of drawing them in.
  5. Thou shalt be wary of gossip. After all, do you know what they say when you leave the room? Remember the old saying: All of the brothers are valiant and all of the sisters are virtuous.
  6. Thou shalt not hog the white or dark meat. We know you're on Atkins but that's no excuse.
  7. Thou shalt think mightily before going back for seconds. Especially if that means waddling back for seconds.
  8. Thou shalt not get drunk. Strong drink improves neither your wit nor your discretion. Give everyone else a gift by remaining sober.
  9. Thou shalt be cheerful. This is not a therapy session. This is not the moment to recount all of the mistakes in your life or to get back at Uncle Bo for the wisecrack he made at your high school graduation. This is a time for Rule #10.
  10. Thou shalt be thankful. You're above ground and functioning in an extraordinary place at an extraordinary time. Many people paid a very heavy price (and I'm not talking about groceries) to give you this day. Take some time to think of them and to express gratitude to your friends and relatives. Above all, give special thanks to the divine power who blesses you in innumerable ways.

Ignore any one rule at your own risk. And if it helps, they're not just rules, they're also basic tools you can use to discover happiness in your life after your family's Thanksgiving dinner is over.

Slicing pumpkin pie beside bread at end of Thanksgiving dinner - Source: Element5 Digital via Unsplash -

Image Credit: Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Turkeys From America’s Farms to the World

The United States is the largest producer of farm-raised turkeys in the world.

That's a statement that raises several questions: How many turkeys are raised on American farms? Where are these turkeys raised within the United States? If the U.S. is the world's largest producer, does it export turkeys to anywhere else in the world?

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the answer is 229 million turkeys! And as for where they are raised within America, we created an interactive map to show where farm-raised turkeys can be found within the U.S.

The answer to the third question is yes, the U.S. does export food products made from farm-raised turkeys elsewhere in the world. In the twelve months from October 2019 through September 2020, at least other 87 nations or their territories received turkey products from the U.S. The U.S. Census Bureau's estimates the value of these turkey products added up to more than $441 million.

As for where they specifically went, we created another interactive map, this time of the world, to visualize which countries imported turkey products from the U.S.

The data for the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands includes the value of turkey products exported to their overseas territories, many of which are in the Americas where turkeys are a native species, and which account for bulk of their indicated consumption.

Meanwhile, Mexico is the largest consumer of turkey products exported by the U.S., accounting for over $276 million (63%) of the total value of U.S. exports to the world. China was a distant second at $19.4 million (4%), as it significantly increased its imports of U.S.-produced turkey meat to help meet its 'Phase 1' trade agreement obligations and to partially compensate for its extreme shortage of pork resulting from its 2019 outbreak of African Swine Fever within its domestic hog farms.

Thanksgiving Turkey Stats for 2020

Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday, and for many American households, turkey is the centerpiece of their Thanksgiving dinner.

But how many farm-raised turkeys are there? How much turkey meat is produced each year? And how big is an average farm-raised turkey in the United States?

Political Calculations tracks all these Thanksgiving-related datapoints, tapping the U.S. Department of Agriculture's databases going back to 1970, so you can see how American farm-raised turkeys have changed over the past five decades.

Speaking of change, the population of farm-raised turkeys in the United States has generally fallen since 1996. In 2020, an estimated 222 million turkeys were raised on American farms, which is down some 27% from the peak of 302.7 million raised in 1996.

Number of Turkeys Raised on U.S. Farms, 1970-2019, with estimate for 2020

The figure for 2020 also represents a decline of 7 million from 2019's level, which itself was revised downward from an initial estimate of 240 million.

By contrast, the collective live weight of farm-raised turkeys has generally plateaued since 1996, falling within a range between 6.877 billion pounds (1999) and 7.922 billion pounds (2008). The initial estimate of the live weight of 2020's 222 million farm-raised turkeys is 7.175 billion pounds.

Total Live Weight of Turkeys Produced, 1970-2019, with estimate for 2020

The combination of a generally flat total live weight for all turkeys produced on American farms with a falling number of birds can only be explained by the growing size of individual turkeys. In 2020, we estimate the average weight of a live farm-raised turkey in the U.S. is 32.3 pounds, down slightly from 2019's revised figure of 32.5 pounds.

Total Live Weight of Turkeys Produced, 1970-2019, with estimate for 2020

Compared to the decade of the 1970s, when the average farm-raised turkey tipped the scale at 18.7 pounds, that represents a 73% increase in the typical size of turkeys produced in the U.S., where their average weight has steadily risen over the last four decades.

That trend may be changing however, because smaller turkeys are in high demand as Americans downsize for 2020's Thanksgiving. With celebrations limited to immediate family members with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, American consumers have been bypassing larger birds in favor of smaller ones.

Data Sources

National Turkey Federation. Sourcebook. [PDF Document]. October 2013.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistics Service. Poultry - Production and Value: 2019 Summary. [PDF Document]. April 2020.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistics Service. Turkeys Raised. [Online Database]. Accessed 1 November 2020.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Economic Research Service. Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook. (LDP-M-316). [PDF Document]. 16 October 2020.

Cooking Turkey With the Swedish Chef

A three-minute classic, with The Muppet Show's Swedish Chef and his uncle, Danny Kaye, preparing a turkey for Thanksgiving....

Of course, the all-time Thanksgiving comedy classic belongs to WKRP in Cincinnati's "Turkeys Away" episode. Here's one of the two clips that everyone who has ever seen the show remembers, from a series that has largely been lost to time because of copyright laws and music licensing fees.

If you must talk about anything political this Thanksgiving, try copyright laws. Free WKRP!

Thanksgiving Travel on Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Buses and Light Trucks

In the United States, the days before and after the annual Thanksgiving holiday represent busiest days for travel in the U.S. each year. If you care about the environment, what do you suppose is the mode of travel that will consume the least amount of energy on average and will have the smallest carbon footprint for how far you might travel to be with your friends and family this year?

The answer may surprise you! We've visualized data showing the trends for the average energy intensity, or rather, the average energy consumed per passenger mile, for several different modes of passenger transportation in the U.S. from 1975 through 2016 in the interactive chart below. If you're accessing this article on a site that republishes our RSS news feed, please click through to our site to access it there.

In the chart, "Light Truck" refers to any two-axle, four wheel truck, which would include anything from pickup trucks to SUVs. "Air" refers to commercial air travel, while "Intercity Rail" in the U.S. means train travel via Amtrak.

Probably the most remarkable thing is how air travel has become less energy intensive per passenger mile than both transit buses (after 1996) and cars (after 2004). The second most remarkable thing we find is how transit buses have become worse over time.

We should note however that the values in the chart represent the average for each mode of passenger transportation. Individual vehicles within each mode have a wide amount of energy intensity variation, where your carbon footprint for travel will depend on it. For example, there's a big difference in fuel efficiency between jets that began flying 25 years ago and are still in service and newer versions that have rolled off their assembly lines more recently. The same is true for all the other modes of transportation.

Environmentally speaking, the average BTUs per passenger mile for each mode is directly proportional to the amount of carbon emissions it produces, where each 1 million BTUs consumed produces the equivalent of 53 kilograms of emitted carbon dioxide. If you're traveling, the greenest thing you can do is choose the least energy intensive mode of transportation that can get you to where you need to be within the time you have available to travel.

If you're traveling to your Thanksgiving destination today, you have our sympathy!


Davis, Stacy C. and Boundy, Robert G. Transportation Energy Data Book. Edition 37.2. Table 2.14: Energy Intensities of Highway Passenger Modes, 1970–2016. Table 2.15: Energy Intensities of Nonhighway Passenger Modes, 1970-2016. Oak Ridge National Laboratory. [PDF Document]. August 2019.