Wanna feel bad for that mouth-watering turkey at the center of your feast? Being filled with delicious stuffing is probably the closest thing to a romantic caress it ever experienced. Turns out, the turkeys we've been breeding and eating for the past several decades are just too big and misproportioned to have sex.
As The Atlantic points out, 2013 is a hallmark year for turkeys: for the first time, the average walking weight of a mass-produced Thanksgiving bird is more than 30 pounds. That's huge—exactly double the size of the average bird that graced the 1930s dinner table. They're so big they've got no chance of flying, so it's no wonder they can't get frisky either.
It's not just their weight that's a problem. The turkey on most American tables today is the Broad-breasted White, a breed precisely honed over years to develop massive amounts of breast meat. The result is a bird with proportions completely out of whack from what nature intended. And since nature can't take its course, romantically speaking, the only way to keep this breed around for another year of feasting is for farmers to take matters into their own hands: artificial insemination. You do not want to learn how that's done.
All this breeding for selected traits (which, though it sounds sorta sci-fi, is something humans have been doing for thousands of years) has created a super-bird. Even when given the same feed as birds from 1966 (when the average walking weight was under 20lbs), modern turkeys grew to nearly double that weight, and did so quicker.
The huge popularity of enormous, celibate turkeys shows that most people are at least implicitly comfortable with all the mad science that's conspired to make these gigantobirds. Still, folks who make a life out of bickering over food nuance insist that the mass-produced wunderbird lacks the distinct flavor that made turkey a feast food in the first place. According to them, only "heritage" birds, bred from wild ancestors in a royal bloodline unbesmirched by the common Broad-breasted White, will do. Are they worth the hassle (and cost) when a big-breasted bird is waiting at the nearest supermarket?
Alton Brown's hour-long Thanksgiving special has a great two-minute explainer that runs through the pros and cons of both standard and "heritage" breeds (fast forward to 3:25 to get right to it). The whole thing is worth watching, though perhaps it's a little too late for the feast you've already prepared today. At least you'll know that the turkey on your plate was pure of heart.
Image: Shutterstock / Luiz Rocha