Thanksgiving Day is here and families are gathering around the table to share what they are thankful for, to watch football, and of course eat some turkey.
Along with the staples of stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, no “Turkey Day” would be complete without the big bird itself, whether it be roasted, smoked or deep-fried.
But what many people don’t usually think too much about during the holiday season is: where does their turkey come from?
It would surprise many to know that North Carolina is in fact the second largest state for turkey production at 33 million turkeys, behind Minnesota, which is on track to produce 44 million turkeys this year.
So in North Carolina this year there will be about three turkeys produced for every person in the state.
With about 243 million turkeys being produced this year there is a good chance your turkey came from the Old North State, which boasts about 13.5 percent of the overall turkey production of the nation this year.
Fourteen states will produce more than 200 million of the 243 million head of turkey this year, with the 36 states on the bottom of the list only producing 30.5 million turkeys between them.
Nationally turkey production is on the rise, up from 233 million head of turkey in 2015 and 236 million head in 2014.
The turkey industry is recovering after steep losses in 2008 and again in 2013.
Here in North Carolina poultry makes up 40 percent of the overall farm industry, making it the number one agricultural industry in the state.
Poultry production supports 109,000 jobs in the state, and in 2014 had a total economic impact of $34.4 billion in the state, according to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.
Across the state there are more than 125 poultry production facilities, from Murphy in the western part of the state to Elizabeth City on the coast.
There is even a small town in Sampson County of about 300 people named Turkey, though there is no turkey production facility there.
The town was originally named Springville but was named after a large group of wild turkey moved into the area.
The townsfolk took it as a sign and renamed the 0.4 square mile town.
The Wild Turkey, once plentiful in North Carolina had dwindled to an estimated 2,000 turkeys by 1970 due to unregulated market hunting in the state.
In the 1950s the first restoration programs were started for the native bird.
From 1950 to 1989 1,500 turkeys were released in the state, according to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.
From 1990 until the turkey restoration programs were ceased, almost 4,500 turkeys were released in the state.
Now the state estimates the Wild Turkey population at 265,000 birds with populations in all 100 counties. All 100 counties have a turkey hunting season each Spring.
So when you gather around the table with friends and family today, take a minute to ponder the glazed bird before you and the impact it has on North Carolina each year.