Thanksgiving: By the numbers

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

This year is the 385th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving celebration, when the religious separatist Pilgrims held a three-day feast in 1621 to celebrate a bountiful harvest a year after they arrived in America.

It became a national holiday with President Abraham Lincoln's proclamation in 1863 as the last Thursday of November. But President Franklin Roosevelt modified that to the fourth Thursday of the month -- partially to encourage earlier holiday shopping in the case, like this month, of five Thursdays in November.

The Census Bureau, whose job is to keep track of such things, offers the following numbers related to Thanksgiving:

265 million -- That's how many turkeys were raised in the United States in 2006, up 3 percent from 2005. That year, all of the turkeys together weighed 7.2 billion pounds, and were valued at $3.2 billion.

At $1.07 a pound, frozen whole turkey was a bargain in December 2005, and the typical American ate 13.4 pounds of it in 2004 -- most of it at Thanksgiving time.

$5.7 million worth of live turkeys were imported in the first half of 2006, most of it from Canada.

Some $3.6 billion worth of turkeys were shipped in 2002, with Arkansas leading at $581.5 million. All of Nebraska's 3 million commercially grown turkeys, as well as some from neighboring states, are raised by the 21 independent turkey producer-members of the Nebraska Turkey Growers Cooperative.

But turkey isn't the only thing on the Thanksgiving table, of course:

664 million pounds -- that's the forecast for U.S. cranberry production in 2006, with Wisconsin leading all states in production with 375 million pounds, followed by Massachusetts with 175 million pounds.

1.6 billion pounds -- of sweet potatoes are produced in the United States, in North Carolina, California, Mississippi and Louisiana.

1.1 billion pounds -- was the total production of pumpkins in 2005, with Illinois leading at 497 million pounds.

256 million pounds -- of tart cherries are expected to be produced this year, mostly in Michigan.

1.8 billion bushels -- of wheat will be produced in the United States this year, 30 percent of it in Kansas and North Dakota combined.

768,000 tons -- of green beans are contracted for production this year, and we'll bet a lot of them wind up in a casserole side dish on Thursday. The Census Bureau didn't offer figures for mushroom soup or onion rings.

3 million tons -- of processed sweet corn will help add color to holiday dishes.

If you're in a rut this year, you might try taking your Thanksgiving meal in places like Turkey, Texas, Turkey Creek, La., Turkey, N.C., or one of the nine townships with "Turkey" in the name, including three in Kansas.

Or, perhaps Plymouth, Neb., Plymouth, Minn., the original Plymouth, Mass., or maybe "Pilgrim" township, in Dade County, Mo.

More than likely, you'll get together with friends or family in one of the 108 million occupied housing units across the nation.

And, judging from the amount of food the Census Bureau expects us to consume, perhaps the Pilgrims had the right idea, in proclaiming a three-day feast.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: