Spice up your Thanksgiving dinner toast this year by sprinkling in some poultry stats:
Did you know Minnesota has raised more than 2.3 billion turkeys since 1929, more than any other state?
And, contrary to popular belief, Minnesota has not been the nation's leading turkey producer that entire time.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics that stretch back nearly a century, Minnesota's prolonged turkey dominance has been relatively recent.
Since 2003, the state has every year grown more turkeys than anywhere else in the country when looking at the raw number of birds produced. Before that, North Carolina, California and Texas traded the crown with Minnesota, depending on the year.
Today, nearly 1 in 5 turkeys raised in America comes from Minnesota, which is home to major turkey companies, including Jennie-O, Turkey Valley Farms and Northern Pride.
It's no surprise, then, that the White House picked turkeys from Minnesota to pardon at this year's annual pre-Thanksgiving event.
Jennie-O Turkey Store is the second-largest turkey producer in the country after Butterball — and Jennie-O briefly reclaimed the No. 1 spot in 2021, according to WATT Poultry.
Turkey consumption has been trending downward in recent years, and as of 2022, Americans consumed about 14.6 pounds per person annually.
Here are some other stats to share while slicing into what could have been the national bird, had Ben Franklin had his way.
Prices, traditions back to normal
At the start of November, whole turkey prices were averaging about $1.71 per pound at retailers nationwide.
But a week before Thanksgiving, it was possible to find a frozen bird for less than a dollar a pound. Procrastination can pay off, as many retailers will discount turkeys in the days leading up to the holiday. But last-minute shoppers must be willing to risk being able to find the right-size bird amid a "a wide range of offering prices as buyers and sellers try to clear inventories," the USDA said last week.
"Several retailers are offering frozen whole birds at [favorable] prices attempting to lure shoppers through their doors," the agency found in its weekly retailer survey.
A Farm Bureau survey found the cost of a full Thanksgiving dinner for 10 guests has fallen almost 5% from last year to about $62. That's still 25% higher than 2019, however.
"Turkey prices have fallen thanks to a sharp reduction in cases of avian influenza, which have allowed production to increase in time for the holiday," said Veronica Nigh, a senior economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation.
A recent Cargill survey showed more than 80% of Americans shopping for Thanksgiving dinner plan to buy a whole turkey. That's a turnaround from recent years when many hosts bought turkey parts for smaller celebrations brought on by pandemic caution.
The value of turkeys raised in Minnesota passed $1 billion for the first time last year, according to USDA stats. Yet 2022 saw the fewest birds grown here in nearly 40 years.
Last year saw a combination of inflation driving up the cost of producing turkeys and the nation's worst-ever bird flu outbreak, which claimed millions of turkeys in Minnesota and elsewhere. Both factors drove up consumer prices.
Bird flu, officially known as highly pathogenic avian influenza or HPAI, does not pose a risk to the food system, health officials say.
There has been one human case of bird flu in the United States since the current outbreak began in 2022; the poultry worker in Colorado has since recovered.
So why exactly did Minnesota become the nation's leading turkey producer — and home to the nation's largest turkey hatchery? A recent Curious Minnesota story delved into the history of the state's billion-dollar industry.
Long story short: About a century ago, growers adopted modern poultry practices, including disease management, that allowed the previously flightless industry to take off. It didn't hurt that Minnesota was producing abundant grain to feed the birds.
Keeping chickens and turkeys separate was key to preventing the deadly spread of blackhead disease in turkey flocks. Other proper animal husbandry practices spread by University of Minnesota Extension's Cora Cooke and William "Doc" Billings in the 1920s helped boost production.
Before those efforts, Billings said, the industry was "crowded with superstitious beliefs about turkeys."
Staff writer Christopher Vondracek contributed reporting.