WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Turkey Economics, Plus Fun Facts and a Recipe on the Side

Nov 24, 2014

Farmers raised fewer turkeys this year than they have in the past three decades. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture puts the figure at 235 million gobblers.

According to Knowles, turkeys can change the color of their waddles at a moments notice, flushing from pale pink to candy-apple red.
Credit Abby Wendle

Ann Knowles raised 70 broad breasted bronze and white turkeys on her small farm in Colchester.

She coops up the plump birds at night to guard against predators, but lets them roam freely during the day.

“They get to strut. And they chase in bugs,” Knowles said. “So I think their dinky little brains are probably pretty happy.”

The short supply has raised wholesale turkey prices to an all-time high this Thanksgiving, but grocery stores probably won’t pass that cost along to the customer. Most supermarkets keep turkey prices low to attract shoppers looking for all the Thanksgiving dinner fixings.

Knowles posing with her chocolate labrador, Sable, and her turkeys on the Knowles family farm in Colchester, Illinois.
Credit Abby Wendle

During a visit, Knowles shared some fun facts about turkeys and turkey farming, and a recipe.

So, in honor of Turkey Day:

Turkey Talk

  • Turkeys are more interactive than other kinds of poultry. For instance, they’ll run to the fence when you call them. They also make good doorbells because they gobble in unison when a person arrives.
  • Male turkeys sometimes sprout a dark feathered plume on their chest called a “beard.” Some wild turkeys’ beards grow to almost a foot long.
  • The fleshy flap that hangs over the turkey’s beak is called a “snood.” They can retract and extend it. Female turkeys prefer long-snooded males. Males will peck and pull at their opponents’ snood while fighting.
  • Knowles learned the hard way that turkeys need a lot of protein in their diet. She said the first year she raised them, there was some cannibalism in the flock because they were hungry for it. She’s now added soybean meal and crushed up egg shells to the grass, oats, and veggies they eat.
  • Baby turkeys are called "poults" and weigh as little as 2 ounces. Some of Knowles's full-grown turkeys weigh close to 40 pounds.
    Credit Abby Wendle

Turkey Brine Recipe


½ gallon cider or 1 can concentrated orange juice

1 gallon water

1 cup salt

½ cup brown sugar




Mix in a pot, cider, ¼ of the gallon of water, salt, brown sugar, allspice, and rosemary.

Heat mix on the stove, bringing the broth to near boiling.

Remove and add the ¾ of a gallon of water to help the broth cool.

When the broth has cooled, pour it into a large pot or bucket.

Submerge the turkey.

Leave in a cold part of the house or on the porch (make sure the container has a lid so critters don’t get in) for 24 hours.

Roast your turkey!