Category Archives: Turkey

How to Cook a Turkey

For as long as we've celebrated Thanksgiving at Political Calculations, we've never once provided any information for doing the one thing most Americans' Thanksgiving dinners depend upon. Cooking a turkey.

Sure, we've featured information on how to carve a turkey. We've twice featured information on how to avoid hurting yourself and others when cooking a turkey. And we've featured the Swedish Chef cooking a turkey, although to be fair, no turkey was actually cooked during that production.

So we're going to rectify that situation today by featuring two videos that will take you through the process of cooking a turkey! But before we begin, let's just say that if your turkey is still frozen rock solid, you should skip the videos and find out what restaurants might be open near you instead....

Our first featured video will take you through the basics of what you need to know about the full process of cooking a turkey in about 12 and a half minutes. Please be aware the process in real life takes much longer....

Our second video runs a little over eight minutes and features much of the same information, but is aimed for a slightly different audience. An audience that's somewhat intimidated by not just cooking a turkey, but being judged for how well they might cook it.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and good luck with your turkey this year!

P.S. We're not done with cooking tips, so check back in tomorrow for an idea of what to do with your Thanksgiving dinner leftovers!

Growth of Average Farm-Raised Turkeys Starts to Stagnate

In 2020, the average live weight of a turkey raised on a U.S. farm was nearly unchanged from 2019's final recorded average of 32.7 pounds per bird. That stagnation ended what had been a 40 year long trend of growth in the average size of turkeys produced on U.S. farms.

Average Live Weight of Turkeys Raised on U.S. Farms, 1929-2020 with Estimate for 2021

In the chart above, we've shown that new trend of stagnation continuing based on early signs that production factors such as the rising costs of feed, fuel, and labor for producing turkeys in the U.S. will affect the growth of the average turkey much the same as it did during the inflationary 1970s. Should the finalized data for 2021 confirm that's the case when it is released next year, it will indicate U.S. turkey producers are dealing with today's inflation similarly to how they did during that period of relative stagnation for the U.S. economy.

References

U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. Livestock Historic Data. [Online Database: Survey - Animals & Products - Poultry - Turkeys - Production - Turkeys Production Measured in Head - Total - National - US Total - 1929-2021 - Annual - Year]. Accessed 14 November 2021.

U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. Livestock Historic Data. [Online Database: Survey - Animals & Products - Poultry - Turkeys - Production - Turkeys Production Measured in LB - Total - National - US Total - 1929-2021 - Annual - Year]. Accessed 14 November 2021.

Number of Turkeys Produced in U.S. Continues to Fall

An estimated 214 million turkeys were raised on U.S. farms in 2021, down 4.5% from 2020's 224 million. That decline continues an ongoing downward trend that has now lasted for 25 years.

Number of Turkeys Raised on U.S. Farms, 1929-2020 with Estimate for 2021

2021 saw the fewest number of turkeys produced on U.S. farms since 1986. Turkey production had soared during the late 1980s and early 1990s thanks to that era's low-fat diet craze, which saw a sharp increase in demand for lean turkey meat.

On a side note, we now have turkey production data going back to 1929!

References

U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. Livestock Historic Data. [Online Database: Survey - Animals & Products - Poultry - Turkeys - Production - Turkeys Production Measured in Head - Total - National - US Total - 1929-2021 - Annual - Year]. Accessed 14 November 2021.

2021’s Cost of Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner 14% Higher Than 2020

The cost of providing a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner to 10 people in 2021 is 14% higher than a year ago. The same food that cost $46.90 in 2020 now costs $53.31.

That's according to the results of the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual survey of the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner were released one week before Thanksgiving 2021. In the following chart, we've visualized the Farm Bureau's year-over-year comparison of the costs of the food in their traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner shopping list.

Cost of a Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner, 2020 vs 2021

In the chart, we've ranked the cost of the individual items and groupings used by the Farm Bureau for their traditional turkey dinner menu from high to low according to their 2021 cost as you read from left to right. We've also tallied the cumulative cost of the meal, with the totals for each shown on the far right side of the chart.

Ranking the data this way lets us see that the increase in the cost of turkey is responsible for most of the year-over-year increase. Rising by $4.60 from 2020's $19.39 to 2021's $23.99 for a 16-pound bird, turkey alone accounts for nearly 72% of the year-over-year increase in the total cost for the meal.

Why are turkeys so much more costly in 2021? Here's a partial explanation:

Last Friday, the USDA's Turkey Market News Report showed that smaller 8- to 16-pound frozen turkeys were selling for $1.41 per pound, up from $1.15 the year before, a 22 percent increase. Large frozen turkeys were selling for a couple cents less. Meanwhile, fresh small birds were more expensive — $1.47 per pound — though the year-over-year increase was less, only 15 cents. Exacerbating the issue is that the total number of turkeys for 2021 is also down: six percent lower year-to-date in 2021 than in 2020.

Justin Benavidez, assistant professor of agricultural economics with Texas A&M's AgriLife, told the nearby KRHD News that this decreased production was the primary cause of the price increase. "This is actually one of those rare situations where the pandemic didn't have much to do with the supply and demand of turkey," he was quoted as saying.

But Gregory Martin, a poultry educator with Penn State Extension, didn't entirely agree, instead pointing to larger inflation concerns. "Prices are going to go up simply because of the cost to get the birds in the store," he told Lancaster Farming.

We'll be looking closer at American turkeys all this week!

References

American Farm Bureau Federation. Farm Bureau: Survey Shows Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Up 14%. [Online Article]. 18 November 2021.

American Farm Bureau Federation. Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Survey: 2021 Year to Year Prices. [PDF Document]. 18 November 2021.

2/2/21: Daylight Saving Time and Carbon Emissions


We usually associate reduction of carbon emissions with reduced consumption, as opposed to variation in timing of consumption, but this association is both too simplistic and also erroneous. Here is why: shifting more consumption activities toward periods of the day when energy generation mix is cleaner (e.g. daylight, when solar can be contributing more to the energy mix) can, quite literally, reduce overall emissions.

Right? Yep. Here is a nice piece of evidence from a natural experiment in Turkey. "In October 2016, Turkey chose to stay on DST all year round." This shifted a lot more consumption by the public from late afternoons to early mornings. As reported in Bircan, Cagatay and Wirsching, Elisa study "Daylight Saving All Year Round? Evidence from a National Experiment" (December, 2020, EBRD Working Paper No. 251, https://ssrn.com/abstract=3751336), overall levels of consumption did not change much, but "the policy has a strong intra-day distributional effect, increasing consumption in the early morning and reducing it in the late afternoon. This change in the load shape reduced generation by dirtier fossil fuel plants and increased it by cleaner renewable sources that can more easily satisfy peak load generation. Emissions from generation decreased as a result." 

Overall, the authors "find that staying on DST during winter months may have led to a reduction in CO2 emissions of between 1,500 and 8,200 tons per day. Hence, the policy change has an unforeseen but beneficial effect of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as generation by “cleaner” power plants substitutes generation from “dirtier” ones to satisfy changes in intra-day demand."

Incidentally, the study does not appear to have considered the effects of solar in their study that should have increased the CO2 abatement effects. It is unclear to me as to why...