Wild turkeys vs. supermarket turkeys: How poultry science and factory farming have made Thanksgiving birds enormous.

Factory-Farmed Turkeys Are More Than Twice as Big as Wild Turkeys (Infographic)

Factory-Farmed Turkeys Are More Than Twice as Big as Wild Turkeys (Infographic)

Brow Beat has moved! You can find new stories here.
Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 21 2014 3:20 PM

Factory-Farmed Turkeys Are More Than Twice as Big as Wild Turkeys

In October, Vox published a picture that vividly shows how much bigger chickens have gotten since 1957, thanks to selective breeding. If you’ve taken a gander at a gargantuan Butterball bird lately, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that selective breeding has made commercial turkeys much bigger, too. Julie Rossman and Roxanne Palmer of the World Science Festival made a side-by-side comparison of supermarket turkeys and wild turkeys, and it’s pretty clear which one would win in a fight.

ataleoftwoturkeys_final12

The extent to which the modern poultry business has changed the turkey’s physiology, mating habits, and lifespan might weaken your Thanksgiving appetite (unless you have a wild or heritage bird lined up for next Thursday’s dinner). But if you are planning on serving 20-pound turkey with ample breast meat, now you know: It’s poultry scientists you have to be thankful for, not nature.

L.V. Anderson is a former Slate associate editor.