News / Science & Technology

Turkey Research Geared Toward Bigger Birds, Profits

Today's turkeys only slightly resemble their ancestors: wild turkeys the American pilgrims feasted on at their first Thanksgiving in 1621
Today's turkeys only slightly resemble their ancestors: wild turkeys the American pilgrims feasted on at their first Thanksgiving in 1621

Multimedia

Zulima Palacio

Roughly 45 million turkeys will be served across the United States on Thanksgiving Day, November 25. But the turkey we eat today is not the same one that was consumed by the pilgrims in the 17th century.  Today's turkey - large and mostly white - is the result of years of research at the US Department of Agriculture where scientists have now sequenced the genome for the domesticated turkey.  Producer Zulima Palacio prepared this little-known story that many Americans might prefer not to hear.  

These turkeys only slightly resemble their ancestors: wild turkeys the American pilgrims feasted on at their first Thanksgiving in 1621.  Those turkeys weighed no more than 6 kilograms. Today these males, called Toms, can weigh up to 36 kilos.

"The wild turkey is pretty scrawny compared to today's birds," said Dr. Julie Long, a leading scientist on turkey reproduction at the Agriculture Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture. "Through natural selection, the turkey breeders have developed turkeys that have very large breast muscle, and they grow very large."

That selection began decades ago when consumers started favoring bigger birds with more breast meat. By the 1960s, the poultry industry had begun to artificially inseminate so-called "broad breasted white" turkeys.

"All of the turkeys in the US are produced with artificial insemination, and it takes a lot of time," added Long.

Artificial insemination of turkeys became required for many reasons.  One is productivity.  The other has to do with weight.  Watch these turkeys. The smaller one in the front is the female, about 11 kilos.  The large ones in the back are males, more than double her weight at 32 kilos. As the males grew larger breasts, that interfered with their ability to mate.

"If they did not perform artificial insemination, the turkey industry will begin to wane.  Fertility through natural mating is very low," noted Murray Bakst, an expert on reproduction in birds at the USDA.  He says turkey, a good source of protein, has become a fast growing international industry.  

"Right now in the industry, the incubation capacity is huge.  Hatcheries will hatch a million eggs in a week," added Bask.  

In just one day, on November 25, 45 million turkeys will be served for the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

At the research facilities of the Department of Agriculture, the incubator can hold hundreds of eggs.  Sue Rosoff manages the hatchery.

"The turkey eggs stay here for 25 days and on the 25th day we transfer them to the hatchers in the other room," said Rosoff.

These chicks are being closely monitored for research on the effectiveness of artificial insemination and their resistance to disease.  Recently, the USDA and 28 other institutions finished mapping the turkey genome.

"The turkey genome is basically like a road map or a textbook to the turkey," explained long.

Using the genetic map, turkeys may be further fine tuned to feed a human population growing every day.

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to an enhancement or regression of democracy on the Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlies her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid