It is an extra big Thanksgiving for turkeys this year.
Mark it down: in 2013, the average weight for American produced turkey crossed 30 pounds for the first time. At least based on the January to October numbers for this year, we're talking about an average weight of 30.47 pounds.
That's a remarkable increase in average size. Go back a little further, like I did in 2008, and you see that we didn't hit 15 pounds until the 1930s. In 1960, the average weight of a turkey was just 16.83 pounds. Even in 1985, it was only 20 pounds, and we didn't hit 25 pounds until 1999.
And we owe it all to artificial insemination.
OK, not all of it. But artificial insemination is a required part of modern turkey breeding. The modern bird is too heavy and misshapen to procreate the old fashioned way. And AI means that good genetic material can be easily spread around.
John Anderson, a long-time breeder at Ohio State University, put it like this to me for a previous story: "You can spread the one tom around better. It adds a whole new level of efficiency. You can spread him over more hens," he said. "It takes the lid off how big the bird can be."
In case you're wondering, you have the United States government to thank for the development of this technology. William Henry Burrows and Joseph P. Quinn of the US Department of Agriculture developed the process and published it in 1939 as a circular called, "Artificial Insemination of Chickens and Turkeys."