How Science Supersized Your Turkey Dinner

Wired appears impressed at the growth and change in turkeys and corn;

Most everything on your plate has undergone tremendous genetic change under the intense selective pressures of industrial farming. Pilgrims and American Indians ate foods called corn and turkey, but the actual organisms they consumed didn't look or taste much at all like our modern variants do.

I rather miss being able to buy anything other that flavourless but sweet peaches'n cream corn, and do prefer the free range organic turkey we ate on our Thanksgiving, but peoples' tastes have evidently changed.


"Americans eat a pound of sugar every two-and-a-half days. The average amount of sugar consumed by an Englishman in the 1700s was about a pound a year," said food historian Kathleen Curtin of Plimoth Plantation, a historical site that recreates the 17th-century colony. "If you haven't had a candy bar, your taste buds aren't jaded, and your apple tastes sweet."

Alexis Madrigal continues, with a description of how "these changes border on breathtaking. Imagine your children reaching full maturity at 10 years old. " No, please don't.

This human-directed evolution has generated animals and plants that share little more than a name with their wild or pre-industrial farm-domesticated relatives. The accumulation of agricultural breeding knowledge and consumer testing has resulted in plants and animals that are physically shaped by consumer tastes. Americans like a medium-size corn kernel, so kernels aren't too big or small. American consumers like white meat, so turkeys are grown with larger breasts.

The breeding programs of the last half-century are, in some ways, a tremendous scientific accomplishment. For example, the United States pumped out 33 times more pounds of turkey at a lower cost to consumers in 2007 than our farmers did in 1929.

She does acknowledge that gee, maybe it doesn't taste as good.

"One thing I would say about a modern turkey is that they have a lot less flavor," said food historian Curtin. "If you've ever had a chance to taste a heritage breed, there's subtleties in turkey."

Read the whole article in Wired, and keep far away from the comments.

More Turkey in TreeHugger:
Recycling Planet Green: Recycle That Turkey Fryer Oil into Biofuel ...
Green Eyes On: Five Tips for a Green Thanksgiving Dinner :
On Moving Toward Vegetarianism: Thanksgiving

Tags: Animals | Genetic Engineering | GMO | Holidays