America’s favorite holiday bird staying strong

Why the turkey is the U.S.’s national holiday meat base

America’s favorite holiday bird staying strong

Turkey is undeniably the United States’ traditional holiday bird but why is that?  There are many factors including popular fiction, money, ease of access and tradition.

According to some culinary historians, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, helped popularize the turkey as the national holiday bird of choice, at least for Christmas. Scrooge’s gift of a Christmas turkey to the Cratchit family emboldened the bird’s presence on holiday menus.

Turkeys were also fresh, affordable and big enough to feed a crowd. Americans have long favored large poultry for celebrations because the birds could be dished out without a huge economic sacrifice.

Among the big birds, turkey was ideal for a fall feast. Turkeys born in the spring would grow to be about 10 pounds by Thanksgiving. They were cheaper than geese, which were more difficult to raise, and cheaper by the pound than chickens.

The British once served geese, swans, and even peacocks on special occasions, but they came to prefer turkey after it was first introduced to England in about 1540. Swans, because of their diet, would taste fishy unless they were fed wheat for weeks before slaughter.

Eating turkey was in keeping with British holiday customs that had been imported to the New World.

Several factors aided turkey’s ascendancy and consistency as the national holiday bird. And though those details are somewhat forgotten, the turkey doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.