Why is the Star Attraction of Your Christmas Dinner Called a Turkey Anyway?

Last year 3.3 million turkeys were purchased by Canadians for Christmas dinner.

Spanish explorers introduced turkeys to Europe in 1520 when they brought the birds back from the new world. The turkey was mistakenly named such and actually has no relationship with the country of Turkey. At the same time that the Spanish were introducing their new bird, Turkish merchants were also selling African Guinea Fowl. People began calling  both birds turkeys and so to differentiate between the two it was (incorrectly) decreed that the Mexican bird be called the turkey.

The turkey’s popularity grew throughout the years and in 1851, it replaced the swan as the preferred main course for Queen Victoria’s Christmas dinner. Norfolk, England became the centre for turkey farming and in those days, before proper roads and railways were introduced, farmers would walk their turkeys to the markets in London. Thousands of turkeys were fitted with special boots made out of sacking or leather to protect them from frozen mud and lameness. This rafter of booted turkeys walked the hundred miles to market in about one week!

England also has the distinction of holding the world record for the largest turkey – 78 pounds 14 ounces without feathers. The United States, however, dominates the turkey market when it comes to total production. Each year it produces 240 million turkeys! In Canada there are 535 turkey farmers who produce 171 million kilograms of turkey every year.  And, just in case you were dying to know, the turkey-feather duster was invented by William Hoag in Iowa in 1872.

A one way ticket to Toronto when the Sudbury Airport opened in 1954 cost $16.00.
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Jackson & McVittie of the Sudbury Dairy started delivering milk for 8¢ a quart in 1894.

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contact: colin@southsidestory.ca

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