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Talking turkey

The holiday meal comes with more than memories

Turkeys at Out Post Farm, in Holliston, are hatched from eggs and raised to be fresh killed for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Most area stores buy from mega-farms in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, raising questions with many about how the birds are raised. AP/Steven Senne. (click for larger version)
November 25, 2010
It almost certainly didn't come from the country that shares its name, but your Thanksgiving turkey probably racked up some mileage traveling from the farm to your plate.

According to local grocers, that's particularly likely if you bought it frozen.

At Big Bunny in Southbridge, Roland Bosse looked over the labels to find his frozen birds were distributed by an Oklahoma firm, "but I don't know where they're raised," he said. "We get them from C&S [Wholesalers] in Brattleboro [Vt.]"

Jerry Kunkel, who buys meat for the Park 'N Shop chain, gets them there, too, but can clearly identify at least one place of origin — North Carolina. Both also said they get their "fresh" birds from the same place — Shady Brook Farms — which they said they think is in Pennsylvania.

Either way, the source is one of the country's top 10 turkey producing states, with North Carolina raising nearly 40 million birds each of the last few years and Pennsylvania a little more than 10 million, according to US Department of Agriculture data. In both cases, too, the purchase puts money into the pockets of some of the world's largest food industry players — C&S is the largest U.S. food wholesaler, and Shady Brook is owned by agro-industry giant Cargill. Its website states its turkeys come from eight states.

Overall, USDA data shows the country raised nearly 247.4 million turkeys last year, selling for $3.57 billion at an average price of 50 cents per pound. Although those numbers sound large, they're actually the lowest since at least 1990; the turkey market peaked in 1996 at 303 million birds (more than the nation's population at the time).

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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