Is the turkey we put on the table today at Thanksgiving considerably different than the one the Pilgrims found out in the wild?
Turkey expert Nickolas Zimmermann says, "Turkeys in the days of the Pilgrims were similar to the wild turkeys that are now abundant in most states of the nation. They have dark plumage and can fly. Modern turkeys have been bred to have large breast muscles, desired by consumers. Modern turkeys also have been bred to have white feathers, so that pigment from dark feathers does not blemish the skin. The selection process has been so successful that modern turkeys are too heavy to fly under most circumstances."
It turns out they're not as smart, either. Zimmermann says, "Wild turkeys grow up in woodlands where only the alert survive. At any moment a fox or a hawk could threaten their life and they must constantly look for food. In comparison, modern turkeys are couch potatoes; food and water are always close and they are safe from predators."
It turns out that one of the major problems for heavy, big-breast turkeys is getting close enough to each other to have successful sex, which is why artificial insemination is often used.
Art credit: gimp-savvy.com
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