Slate has an informative ditty about how turkey suppliers meet huge Thanksgiving demand, which amounts to roughly 46 million turkeys during a single week. Suppliers must plan a year ahead:
Market leader Butterball…has already begun the production cycle for next year’s holiday season. Eggs for breeder birds have been purchased from one of the world’s two major genetic suppliers, Hybrid and Nicholas. Those eggs will then be hatched and placed in turkey farms so that they can grow and become sexually mature during the winter. Come springtime, these birds will produce the eggs that are destined to become the turkeys we actually eat.
The eggs laid next spring will be incubated for 28 days and then, after they hatch, the resulting turkeys will spend about 10 to 18 weeks on a farm before they’re brought into the processing plant in late October and November. The birds are slaughtered, quickly chilled…then shipped out to retailers, usually all in the same day.
The article adds that turkeys need to be bred with human help:
The vast majority of turkeys sold in the United States…have been bred to produce as much white breast meat as possible, resulting in males so large and unwieldy that they can’t properly mount the females. Toms therefore have to be manually stimulated and “milked” for their semen, which is then inserted into a hen using a syringe.
And that, folks, explains how your broasted bird made it from farm to table. Not a pretty process, but the outcome sure is tasty.