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 before you gobble up all of that perfectly roasted goodness, give some thought to the big bird and the effect that poultry has in North Carolina each year.
While it is known that North Carolina is an agricultural state, it may surprise many to find out that corn, tobacco or soybeans are not the state’s number one agricultural product, but it is poultry instead that tops the pile.
It would surprise many to know that North Carolina is in fact the second largest state for turkey production, harvesting more than 30 million turkeys a year, second only to Minnesota.
In North Carolina each year there are about three turkeys produced for every person in the state.
With about 240 million turkeys being produced this year there is a good chance your turkey came from the Old North State.
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 126,933 jobs in the state, and in 2016 had a total economic impact of $36.6 billion in North Carolina, 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 that was changed 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, dwindled to an estimated 2,000 turkeys by 1970 because of unregulated 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 is 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.
And as your Thanksgiving comes to a close it might be time to kick back and relax with a glass of rye whiskey, made by none other than Wild Turkey.
Happy Thanksgiving, from NC Capitol Connection.