Why is turkey meat becoming increasingly popular?
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN called the turkey a “Bird of Courage”, saying that it was “a much more respectable Bird” than the eagle and a “true original Native of America”. Franklin branded the patriotic raptor a “rank Coward” who steals his food from the fishing hawk and retreats from attacks by smaller birds. The turkey, on the other hand, “would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a Red Coat on.” (Strangely, the turkey got its name from the muddled belief in Europe that the bird originated from the Ottoman empire, ie, Turkey.)
These days the doughty turkey has won the loyalty of millions of people for another reason—as a favourite festive-season meal. The average American gobbles 7.3kg of turkey meat per year, nearly twice as much as in 1970, and their European counterpart eats 4.1kg. Why is it so popular?
Purchases of the bird are no longer confined largely to holiday times. In 1970 half of all the turkeys consumed in America were eaten during festivities—Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Today that share is down to 29%. Their appeal is also increasing elsewhere, notably in Asia countries that embrace Western-style diets.
One reason for the growing appeal of turkey is the demand for low-calorie foods, says André Laperrière of Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition, a NGO. A 100-gram portion of turkey contains on average fewer calories (189) than the same amount of beef (250), pork (242) or even chicken (239), whose growing popularity is the result of similar factors. Not only is turkey meat healthier than rival products, it is also cheaper. The retail price of frozen turkeys in America last year, according to the US Department of Agriculture, averaged $1.52 per pound (454 grams), against $5.44 per pound for fresh beef for roasting.
And turkey production is less damaging to the environment than other meats (though plant-based food would be even less damaging). For every pound of beef, six pounds of feed are required; a pound of turkey requires just two pounds of feed. And whereas a kilo of beef takes up 15,000 litres of water (not just to keep the animals’ thirst at bay, but to produce the feed that fattens them), the equivalent amount of poultry (turkeys included) require 4,300 litres.
Like many industries, the turkey-meat trade has not been spared by the covid-19 pandemic. Restrictions on social gatherings mean that fewer families will get together for Christmas, which might dent the demand for bigger birds. With most economies taking a downward turn (and households tightening their belts) many families might be less inclined to buy turkeys this year. “It might take a couple of years before the market bounces back to normal,” says Mr Laperière. But, he says, “I’m confident it will flourish over the next decade.” The Bird of Courage will, no doubt, rule the roost again.
Author: | Post link: https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2020/12/23/why-is-turkey-meat-becoming-increasingly-popular
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