Your Thanksgiving Turkey Could Not Have Sex

November 18, 2011

Really appalling story out today on Freakonomics Radio. Americans love white meat on their turkeys and dislike the dark meat. As a result, turkeys tend to have their upper bodies fattened to produce more white meat. Their breasts have grown so large that they get in the way of turkeys having intercourse. That's right, our turkeys cannot reproduce naturally. The number of Thanksgiving turkeys produced through artificial insemination is nearly 100 percent. 

Stephen Dubner explains further, "The turkey industry is built around artificial insemination, which is a very labor-intensive and hands-on process. Here's the way it works: A team of workers has to pick up each male breeder, the tom, which might weigh as much as 70 pounds, secure his contribution -- as they call it in the trade -- and then bring that to the hen house to inseminate each hen. And then keep in mind -- with such an intense consumer demand for turkey -- this is not a once-a-year event." 

There are birds raised in the traditional way, but they can cost $150 or $200 for a bird. 

Is it worth it? 

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