Guess! Forty-six million turkeys are eaten in the US over the course of a year, a month or a certain day? The surprising answer (or maybe not) is the latter … on the Thanksgiving holiday. It is celebrated in the US on the fourth Thursday in November. Another 22 million are devoured over Christmas and 19 million perish at Easter.
We are a carnivorous culture. If 46 million turkeys stand side-by-side, they make a line some 7,000 miles long or about twice the distance between the East and West coasts. Despite all this, turkey is only the fourth source of protein in the U.S. coming in as it does after chicken, beef and pork.
Nevertheless, almost 1.4 billion pounds of turkey were consumed at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter — to the 46 million Thanksgiving turkeys one can add 22 million for Christmas and 19 million for Easter (2011 figures). About a third of the turkeys are eaten during the holidays and two-thirds over the rest of the year. It adds up to about 230,000 birds in total.
That is the front end for turkeys. But not all the turkey is eaten. The carcass and some of the meat ends up in trash cans. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates a third of global food is wasted. That figure coincides with what the US Department of Agriculture projects for turkeys — 35 percent goes into garbage cans and ends up in landfills.
The average weight of a turkey is 15 lbs. giving us approximately 690 million pounds for the 46 million consumed during Thanksgiving. It also means 240 million pounds goes to the waste dumps.
Turkey is not the only waste — Americans throw away 25 percent more waste during the approximately month-long holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year (think of all the gift wraps, Christmas trees, cardboard boxes, ribbons, sticky tape, etc.). On ribbons also, if people in the U.S. reused just 2 feet of holiday ribbon, it would save 38,000 miles of ribbon. And if each family wrapped only 3 gifts in re-used Christmas wrapping paper, the saved paper would be enough to cover 4,500 football fields. All of which might seem to be in the spirit of the grinch that stole Christmas, but the general idea is to think about minimizing waste.
Perhaps all of this is irrelevant in a world in the grip of the covid virus. The essence of holidays lies in the gatherings of friends and relatives, something frowned upon in the age of covid. So, a quiet march to the New Year and a muted “Happy New Year” with a ‘beware of the omicron strain’ under one’s breath.
Such is the world of covid with its frustratingly temporary immunity. Is there a possibility it will eventually become like the common cold, a nuisance with which we learn to live? As it is the latest version i.e. the omicron variant shares its genetic code with the cold virus and is more easily transmissible.