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Science

Turkeys Are Twice as Big as They Were in 1960 (theatlantic.com) 158

Alexis Madrigal, writing for The Atlantic: A turkey today is not the turkey of yesteryear. For decades, animal breeders have been transforming the genomes of turkeys to make them grow larger. Since 1960, the weight of turkeys has gone up about a quarter of a pound each year. The average weight of a turkey has gone from 15.1 pounds in 1960 to 31.1 pounds in 2017. And most of that change has been genetic. In one study of a representative strain of turkeys, poultry researchers fed the same diet to turkeys from 2003 and to a control group of turkeys that were representative of that strain's genetic pool from 1966. On average, the 2003 females grew to 33 pounds. Their 1966 cousins only got to 16.3 pounds.
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Turkeys Are Twice as Big as They Were in 1960

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  • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @11:48AM (#55603733)

    twice as heavy as 1960, thought this was article about obese americans

    • by rjune ( 123157 )

      My concern is, can they still fly? With God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      • I live in the US and we have wild turkeys in my neighborhood, (yes, I do live in a city! They come downtown.) They eat bugs along the side of the road, between parked cars.

        Turkeys in America are the same as they always were; wild turkeys can still fly, farm turkeys haven't been able to for hundreds of years.

        Turkeys that can fly don't stay on lame farms, you have to treat them really well. They're quite intelligent birds.

        • >I live in the US and we have wild turkeys in my neighborhood, (yes, I do live in a city! They come downtown.)

          I've seen foxes most often (I don't count raccoons and skunks, since at this point they're effectively urban-adapted), a couple of coyotes, and recently some wild turkeys. I couldn't even tell you where the nearest green space is, and still the critters show up. Mind you, I can count the wild animals I've seen in an urban environment over the last four decades without taking my socks off, but I

          • They did DNA analysis of coyotes in LA and found that they were likely the original wild population whose territory was in the place that became the city. Now they eat scraps out of the garbage, and hunt rodents. Most human residents mistake them for stray or feral dogs.

      • Wild turkeys fly. Domestic ones can when they're young but do less often as they grow up (and grow fat). So the real answer is that fat turkeys can't fly.

  • I'd rather eat chicken. Turkey is the _worst_ of the domesticated birds.

    Also: Duckhen is much much better than TurDuckHen.

    • I'd rather eat chicken. Turkey is the _worst_ of the domesticated birds.

      I've just never liked roasted/baked turkey.

      Maybe its because I don't generally drink and eat at the same time, I don't wash my food down....so, ANY roast turkey I've ever had, tastes mostly like dried cardboard to me.

      I started my own tradition decades ago, each year I do a standing Rib Roast.

      I found a wonderful Prime Grade bone-on rib roast at Costco this year, $11.99/lb.

      I"m gonna slow rotisserie it on the Big Green Egg, low temps

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

        I'd rather eat chicken. Turkey is the _worst_ of the domesticated birds.

        I've just never liked roasted/baked turkey.

        Maybe its because I don't generally drink and eat at the same time, I don't wash my food down....so, ANY roast turkey I've ever had, tastes mostly like dried cardboard to me.

        I started my own tradition decades ago, each year I do a standing Rib Roast.

        We always do a ham and a turkey for Thanksgiving, but a while back I was able to talk my family into doing standing rib roasts for Christmas. So much better. Turkey is always so dry, and the skin is tough, dry, and stringy.

        • Dry is good. It's a clue that the meat you're eating is low in fat.
          • While I don't like to much fat at pig or cows, a decent amount is necessary.
            There is absolutely nothing beneficial in 'low fat meat'.
            How do you make a souce from the juice of your meat if it had no fat? Oh, you add butter?

        • That problem could be solved with a cooking book.
          Turkey is a juicy and soft and tastty as any other bird if you prepare it right.
          It is actually my favourite after goose ...

      • I started my own tradition decades ago, each year I do a standing Rib Roast.

        What time are we eating? I've got a bottle of some good bourbon I can bring.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )

        so, ANY roast turkey I've ever had, tastes mostly like dried cardboard to me.

        That's because nobody you've had it with evidently prepares it right.

      • by EvilSS ( 557649 )
        I'm not a fan of turkey but after discovering Williamsburg Turkey Soup turkey is always on the menu for thanksgiving so we can have the leftover carcass for the soup. The soup is obscene calorie wise but so good. That and turkey breast on whole wheat with mayo and sweet pickle chips.
      • by bn-7bc ( 909819 )
        Let me guess, you it thye white/light meat, in that case I agree it tends to be dry, The darkere meat on the other hand is imho full of flavor.
        Disclamer: I live in europe so this may or may not aplay to USW torkys which I can't comment on as I've mever tasted them.Why do I bothet to comment on an article that deaks with US torkys then? Well in my experience people complainingf about torky not having flavor tend to go for the whiite meat (not done any reserch on the topic tho so this might just be a coinci
        • It is the same here. The white meat is what tastes like cardboard. The darker meat tastes much better, but people for whatever reason pick the white meat. When the turkey is just out of the oven, the white meat isn't quite so bad. When you are eating the leftovers it really gets try. You have to put something - gravy, or crandberry sauce on the thing to make it palatable. The darker meat still tastes good when eating leftovers.
      • Maybe its because I don't generally drink and eat at the same time, I don't wash my food down....so, ANY roast turkey I've ever had, tastes mostly like dried cardboard to me.

        Fried in peanut oil, it's one of the most moist and delicious things you can put in your month. (as terrible as that sounds)

        But if you don't want to deal with 4+ gallons (hey, it's a US holiday, so imperial measurements, baby!) of expensive, hot, highly flammable cooking oil, try an electric roaster instead. Yeah, those things you see stacked to the ceiling in Walmart the second after they toss out all the pumpkins and plastic skeletons. Inject the turkey with this stuff [mccormick.com], rub it with peanut oil, sprinkle

  • Selective breeding (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @11:51AM (#55603765) Homepage

    The phrase "transforming the genome," although accurate, may be a little misleading to the non-science public. What this means is "selective breeding," not "genetic engineering."

    It is interesting to compare farm-bred turkeys to the wild ones. We do get wild turkeys in our backyard-- they are quite impressive birds, not at all similar to the big-but-dumb coop-raised turkeys.

    • by hAckz0r ( 989977 )
      Its very easy to do. Just keep the ones you like and sell the rest. Reproduction then leads to bigger descendants through completely natural means.

      .
      What doesn't make *any* sense, is catching fish and only throwing the *small* ones back. The only fish left to reproduce are the smaller fish! Not only are we eating too many but we are "naturally" breeding smaller fish, crabs, etc. Logically we should instead change the rules, be eating the small and throwing back the large ones. If you are not an old guy li

      • by Strider- ( 39683 )

        Well, if the small ones are the ones a year younger that haven't had a chance to reproduce yet, then it makes a certain modicum of sense. Around here, at least, a number of the fish have a window in the middle. Keepers are only over a given size, and under the other.

      • Bnt you do know that big means old and small means young?
        The fish you are supposed to throw back are those below breeding age, you don't know if they would end up as super big or super small fish there is no 'breeding' or 'selection' involved.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      The phrase "transforming the genome," although accurate, may be a little misleading to the non-science public. What this means is "selective breeding," not "genetic engineering."

      It is interesting to compare farm-bred turkeys to the wild ones. We do get wild turkeys in our backyard-- they are quite impressive birds, not at all similar to the big-but-dumb coop-raised turkeys.

      The other thing is the farm-raised turkeys can no longer reproduce naturally - they must all be artificially inseminated. They're just s

      • That isn't really as true as the propaganda makes it sound, though. They're being (often force-) fed a diet different from their natural diet. We have wild turkeys where I live, a few hang out right downtown in the city! They mostly eat bugs. They do eat some seeds too, for sure, but grains soaked in animal lard isn't really the same, nutritionally, as fresh insects and seasonal whole grains.

        If you take that farm turkey and don't clip its wings, and you raise it "free range," it is not going to be a good fl

  • by kiviQr ( 3443687 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @12:00PM (#55603855)
    10% of U.S. adults were classified as obese during the 1950s. In 2011 to 2012, however, the CDC reported approximately 35%. Source: https://www.livestrong.com/art... [livestrong.com]
    • by Morky ( 577776 )
      So now the reason is clear: Americans are getting fat from eating bigger turkeys.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    News at 11.

  • ...that's a space station! No, wait... that's no space station, that's a 2017-strain American Turkey! Change course!

    Can't, it's got us stuck in its massive gravitational field! Well, it won't take ME without a fight!

  • A criminal, Keptin... a product of late 20th century genetic engineering!
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @12:10PM (#55603933)
    since I've always hated the stuff, but modern fruit is just awful. Oranges especially. They grow to the size of grapefruits and as a result the tree can't get enough sugar or flavor to them. They taste like balls of fiber and wax. I stopped buying them. I can by the various breed of tangerines I guess but it's just not the same. I miss real oranges.
    • RE: tasteless fruit
      The "produce" in most grocery stores has been grown for appearance and longer shelf life, not taste. The solution is to order direct from the groves via mail order. Several people told me they hated grapefuit; I gave them a ruby red ordered direct from a Florida grove, and they were AMAZED how much better it was.

    • I'm guessing you mean modern oranges grow to the size of modern grapefruit... because old-style grapefruit is dang near the size and shape of a rugby ball or American football (secondary school size, not professional). Modern grapefruit are a result of crossbreeding with oranges to get the size down and to make them sweeter.
      • Probably. In my neck of the woods grapefruit were always about the size of a big softball, maybe a little bigger.
    • Don't know where you live, but around here, different stores have different quality produce. If I go to FoodMax, I get fruit exactly like you describe. If I go to Safeway, the fruit is much better, and 50% of the time has good flavor (you still have to feel it in the store to make sure). There is a small market nearby that is even better (although the other small market is worse), and the local farmer's market often has really great stuff.

      The problem isn't the fruit variety, it's because the fruit all get
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Once you've had the REAL stuff it's amazing how hard it is to go back.

      Successfully grew a ton of broccoli in the garden one year, Stuff was so damned good.

      Green beans are the same... once you have REAL fresh stuff, the garbage they sell at the store just tastes like crap.

      Our apple trees (fireside and a honeycrisp, Minnesota grown honeycrisp none of that mush washington crap) produce apples that taste so much better than what you can even get direct from the orchard... I don't even do much with them... ferti

    • Fresh tomatoes in the grocery stores

      Completely tasteless. Canned ones are ok though.

    • Try organic.

      Cue a bunch of neckbeards demanding that they be the same, however, most conventional fruit (and vegetables!) that have been bred to be flavorless are that way for increased shelf life. (not yield)

      The varieties with the longest shelf life have to be bred to have less flavor, and to be more susceptible to disease, because the natural protection is mostly vitamin C. Which tastes very sour. So if all you do is breed it to have more shelf life, it will be more sour. So you also have to breed it to b

    • Same with tomatoes.
      Salads I meanwhile explicitely order without them, or put them aside.
      I did not have a good tomato since 20 years ...

  • We are prospering too much!

    Seriously I can easily image JFK, Eisenhower, or one of those guys promising that in the future Turkeys would be larger.

    They're larger in part because our better economy carries that demand.
    • But what those ex-presidents didn't tell you is that all of the additional weight will be in the form of tasteless, chalky white breast meat.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @12:24PM (#55604031)

    Just in case you're wondering why after cooking your meat has about 10% of its original size, feast your eyes on this [wikipedia.org].

    In other words, how big is your turkey after roasting for a few hours? Is it still bigger? Or did it "sweat"?

  • by Tempest_2084 ( 605915 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @12:34PM (#55604149)
    While I can only base this on my experience, it seems that the larger the turkey the weaker the flavor seems to be. I wonder if much like fruit, the turkey has been bred only for size and the flavor has been ignored. Sure you get 30+ pounds of turkey, but it might as well be tofu for all the flavor it has. Maybe that's why they're all injected with 'flavor enhancers'. The turkeys we get from the local farmer around here are smaller (15-20 pounds on average) but they taste so much better. We did a side by side comparison one year and couldn't believe the difference. Of course you pay for that flavor, but for once a year it's well worth it.
  • So it's not as "cool" as Jurassic Park, but hey... baby steps.
  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @12:39PM (#55604209)

    Think of it as evolution in action.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can you please post weight measurements in other units, as Europeans have a hard time with Pounds.
    For instance, what would those turkeys weight in stones ?

    • by Hawks ( 102993 )

      15.1lb ==1.6308 Jub, 0.7873, Adult Badgers, or 0.0046 skateboarding rhinos....1.0786 stone if you're dull.
      31.1lb = 3.3589 Jub, 1.6216, Adult Badgers, or 0.0094 skateboarding rhinos....2.2216 stone if you're unfamiliar with proper weight units.

  • by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @01:16PM (#55604579)

    Same thing with chicken. For a long time during my 30's I had the impression that chicken didn't taste like it used to, but I dismissed it as the 'good old days' syndrome. Then I visited a town on the savannas in Guyana and ate free-range chickens that didn't look as though they'd been cross-bred with beach balls. Wings, legs, and breasts were much smaller than I'd grown used to, but they tasted wonderful - just like I remember chicken tasting in my early years.

  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @01:26PM (#55604673)

    How large an animal is at slaughter has little to do with how large the animal can get and more to do with how large the producer selects the animal to meet the customer demand.

    I raise pigs on pasture. A full grown pig is 900 to 1,800 lbs. I do not sell my hogs at full size. Rather I raise them to a weight that fits my customers needs.

    For standard whole pig family orders that is about 250 lbs live weight.

    For roaster pigs it varies from as little as about 20 lbs to 300 lbs with the typical oven roaster being about 30 to 40 lbs and the typical spit roaster being about 80 lbs.

    For whole market pigs that I cut to deliver to stores and restaurants the size is more like 300 to 400 lbs.

    Back to turkeys, when you raise them you can harvest them at 20 lbs, 30 lbs, 40 lbs or what ever size you like to fit you or your customer's needs.

    Yes, we have been doing selective breeding for millennia to improve how feed efficient animals are, muscling, etc, but the selection of size has more do do with market demand and is done simply by raising the animal and harvesting it at the desired size.

    If you would like a 1,000 lb pig just let me know. Realize they cost a lot more than the standard 250 lb pigs as they take a lot longer to get to that size and thus a lot more feed too.

    • In the last 50 or 60 years we've selectively bred chickens and turkeys so that they grow much faster than they used to. The turkeys the article is talking about would be taking the same amount of time in each case but today's turkey would be approximately twice the weight. It isn't the case of just letting the birds live longer so they can get bigger. In addition they probably eat less feed through a combination of finding better food and selecting animals that utilize the food better.

    • But if the average weight at slaughter is steadily getting higher then one of two things have happened:

      1) On average, turkeys are raised for a longer time now to get to a higher weight than they would have been slaughtered at 50 years ago.

      Or

      2) On average, turkeys are heavier now given the same age at slaughter than they were 50 years ago.

      You'd think that would be easily verified, but my google searches keep thinking I'm asking about the average age of the inhabitants of the *country* Turkey, so I haven't be

  • That's all that matters!
  • Yeah, so we're twice as big as we used to be!

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