Why you should buy a smaller turkey for Thanksgiving (along with Christmas and whenever you buy a turkey)

This is my first post on food!

Thanksgiving just passed in Canada, which interestingly enough is the same day as Columbus Day in the US.

 

Chris, have you lost your mind?

 

When I mentioned that, a colleague of mine at work joked that he will hit me.

However most people are not like my colleague at work. He is a great person and genuinely loves turkey. Most people buy turkeys because everyone else does it. That builds up a certain inertia.  There does seem to be a mentality that “bigger is better” in our modern society. I think that it is unhealthy and at odds with reality. I’m not sure what is fueling this, perhaps a “Keeping up with the Jones” mentality or perhaps excessive advertising.

Whatever the reasons, people seem to love buying giant turkeys. It is leading to other problems such as turkeys being specifically bread for their gigantic breasts to keep up with consumer demand. In fact, these turkeys are now so large that they are dependent on artificial insemination to reproduce. They cannot stand, walk, and their large bodies have other problems like weakened immune systems. They have been designed (and I particularly stress the term designed) for being quick to the slaughter.

This is not however, intended to be an appeal to emotion. There are quite a few perfectly rational reasons for buying a smaller turkey.

 

Reasons to buy smaller turkeys

You will get sick of eating turkey

Unless you have a lot of people at your event (and read my what if section if you do), you will inevitably, end up with a lot of leftovers.

Apart from taking up a lot of refrigerator space, which also cannibalizes the room for other foods, you will end up with eating lots of turkey for the next week, and likely beyond that!  Turkey tastes great if you prepared it very well and you eat it occasionally. It does not taste so good if you eat the same turkey over and over again for days. You will get sick of eating turkey. It is not pleasant. I have done it before. You will groan and go “oh turkey again”?! If you have a family, so too will everyone else.

Oh and of course, eating food that has been in your refrigerator for so long can make you sick, literally.

 

Less food waste

Needless to say, many people who do not follow my advice end up throwing away lots of turkey meat.

First, it will eventually spoil if left in the refrigerator, and second, people will want to get rid of it because they will get sick of eating turkey all the time.

The end result? It will be composted. At some point you have to, because you cannot take it any more or it is a food poisoning crisis waiting to happen.

 

Cheaper

I do not know about you, but I do not like throwing money down the drain. Turkeys, like other animals are priced by mass. A smaller turkey is cheaper.

Besides, if you are not going to eat the full size of the big turkey, there’s a good chance as I noted above that you will get sick of turkey and/or, throw it out.

 

Ethics

I have already indicated the drawbacks of buying large turkeys and the impact that it is having on the meat industry. I think that if we consumers were to vote with our wallets en masse, perhaps we would see better quality turkeys.

 

What if?

I have a large party going on and I need a large turkey to fill everyone up?

Buy two smaller turkeys.

Most people (and if you are a skilled cook, then perhaps this does not apply to you) do not know how to cook a very large turkey relatively evenly. Large turkeys are exponentially more difficult to thaw and cook very well. The reason is because of the square cube law. Volume is a cubic function, but surface area, which is needed for thawing, is a square function, so the end result is that the larger the turkey, the harder it is to thaw very evenly, while keeping the risk of food poisoning down.

Then there is the matter of cooking said turkey. The larger the turkey, again due to the square-cube law, it is very hard to cook the turkey evenly and to make sure that heat gets into the middle. The end result could be an outside that is dry and unpleasant to eat, while the interior has been undercooked. There are tricks for doing this and some people do a better job than others, but most people lack the skill to do it well. That and you would not want to give your guests a terrible tasting turkey or worse, food poisoning!

I mean if you host a party, most people will out of politeness, say the food was good, but in reality, if you don’t know how to cook a turkey well, you are far more likely to make mistakes on a large turkey.

I cannot imagine that anyone would think any less of you for buying two turkeys than one giant turkey.

 

What if you are not as price-sensitive?

Well I’m not a fan of throwing away money. The book, The Millionaire Next Door, discusses how even the very wealthy live at times modestly and are wealthy because they did not waste money. At time of this writing, I’m of modest financial means, but I agree with much of what that book says. Not everything, but a great deal. Even the very rich can become not as wealthy by wasting money.

Now with that being said, I firmly believe that buying high quality food (read: high quality, which is not always expensive, although often it can be) is good in terms of long-term benefits. Ultimately you pay for an unhealthy diet later on in life I fear. Society seems to be increasing still in life expectancy, but in terms of “health expectancy”, we seem to be in trouble, particularly with the world experiencing a global obesity crisis.

I would recommend exploring the possibility of buying a Heritage Turkey. They do cost a lot more, but from my experiences, they taste a lot better. The meat is darker (especially if the turkey has been allowed out to hunt for insects much like wild turkeys), and they taste much closer to a more “wild turkey” taste. They are also healthier for you – you are after all what you eat, and if you are a strong believer of ethical consumerism, the animals were better raised.

If it means anything to you, I personally prefer to buy much of my food at the farmer’s market and I personally know the farmers having been there frequently. That’s true despite my modest financial means. Off-topic, but you can save money buy buying cheaper cuts, organ meats (which are actually very healthy for you), and buying in bulk. Often many farmers are willing to work with you, especially if you come frequently and develop a good personal relationship.

 

Happy turkey eating!

Anyways, I hope for Canadian readers that they enjoyed their holidays and for Americans, to enjoy the upcoming Thanksgiving.

I suppose this post is also of use during Christmas, so be sure to keep it around when you buy a turkey! Also, share this with your friends, family, and frankly, anyone interested in buying a giant turkey!

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