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Facts for Features
Sept. 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Day
Nov. 27, 2008

In the fall of 1621, the religious separatist Pilgrims held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest, an event many regard as the nation's first Thanksgiving. It eventually became a national holiday in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month to encourage earlier holiday shopping, never on the occasional fifth Thursday.

271 million

The preliminary estimate of turkeys raised in the United States in 2008. That's not statistically signficantly different from the number raised during 2007. The turkeys produced in 2007 together weighed 7.9 billion pounds and were valued at $3.7 billion.
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service <http://www.nass.usda.gov/>

Weighing in With a Menu of Culinary Delights

49 million

The preliminary estimate of turkeys Minnesota expects to raise in 2008. The Gopher State is tops in turkey production. It is followed by North Carolina (39 million), Arkansas (31 million), Virginia (21 million), Missouri (20 million) and Indiana (15.9 million). These six states together will probably account for about two-thirds of U.S. turkeys produced in 2008.

689 million pounds

The forecast for U.S. cranberry production in 2008, up 5 percent from 2007 and slightly below 2006. Wisconsin is expected to lead all states in the production of cranberries, with 385 million pounds, followed by Massachusetts (190 million). New Jersey, Oregon and Washington are also expected to have substantial production, ranging from 15 million to 50 million pounds.

1.8 billion pounds

The total weight of sweet potatoes -- another popular Thanksgiving side dish -- produced by major sweet potato producing states in 2007. North Carolina (667 million pounds) produced more sweet potatoes than any other state. It was followed by California (426 million pounds). Mississippi and Louisiana also produced large amounts: at least 300 million pounds each.

1.1 billion pounds

Total production of major pumpkin-producing states in 2007. Illinois led the country by producing 542 million pounds of the vined orange gourd. Pumpkin patches in Ohio, California and New York also provided lots of pumpkins: Each state produced at least 100 million pounds. The value of all pumpkins produced by major pumpkin-producing states was $117 million.

If you prefer cherry pie, you will be pleased to learn that the nation's forecasted tart cherry production for 2008 totals 177 million pounds. Of this total, the overwhelming majority (135 million) will be produced in Michigan.

2.1 billion bushels

The total volume of wheat -- the essential ingredient of bread, rolls and pie crust -- produced in the United States in 2007. Kansas and North Dakota accounted for 28 percent of the nation's wheat production.

769,760 tons

The 2008 contracted production of snap (green) beans in major snap (green) bean-producing states. Of this total, Wisconsin led all states (293,200 tons). Many Americans consider green bean casserole a traditional Thanksgiving dish.

Source: The previous data came from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service <http://www.nass.usda.gov/>.

$9.2 million

The value of U.S. imports of live turkeys from January through July of 2008 -- 99.3 percent from Canada. Our northern neighbor accounted for all of the cranberries the United States imported ($2.1 million). When it comes to sweet potatoes, however, the Dominican Republic was the source of 86.3 percent ($3.8 million) of total imports ($4.4 million). The United States ran a $4.9 million trade deficit in live turkeys during the period but had surpluses of $15.0 million in cranberries and $22.3 million in sweet potatoes.
Source: Foreign Trade Statistics <http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/>.

13.3 pounds

The quantity of turkeys consumed by the typical American in 2006, with a hearty helping devoured at Thanksgiving time. Per capita sweet potato consumption was 4.6 pounds.
Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2009, Tables 209-210 <http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2009/>.

The Turkey Industry

$3.6 billion

The value of turkeys shipped in 2002. Arkansas led the way in turkey shipments, with $581.5 million, followed by Virginia ($544.2 million) and North Carolina ($453 million). In 2002, poultry businesses whose primary product was turkey totaled 35 establishments, employing about 17,000 people.
Source: Poultry Processing: 2002 <http://www.census.gov/prod/ec02/ec0231i311615.pdf>

$4.3 billion

Forecast 2008 receipts to farmers from turkey sales. This exceeds the total receipts from sales of products such as rice and peanuts.
Source: USDA Economic Research Service <http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/farmincome/finfidmu.htm>

The Price is Right


Retail cost per pound of a frozen whole turkey in December 2007.
Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2009, Table 709 <http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2009/>

Where to Feast


Number of places in the United States named after the holiday's traditional main course. Turkey, Texas, was the most populous in 2007, with 465 residents, followed by Turkey Creek, La. (363) and Turkey, N.C. (270). There also are nine townships around the country named Turkey, three in Kansas.
Source: Population estimates <http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb08-106.html>, <http://factfinder.census.gov/>


Number of places and townships in the United States that are named Cranberry or some spelling variation of the red, acidic berry (e.g., Cranbury, N.J.), a popular side dish at Thanksgiving. Cranberry township (Butler County), Pa., was the most populous of these places in 2007, with 27,126 residents. Cranberry township (Venango County), Pa., was next (6,810).
Source: Population estimates <http://factfinder.census.gov/>, <http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb08-106.html>


Number of places in the United States named Plymouth, as in Plymouth Rock, the landing site of the first Pilgrims. Plymouth, Minn., is the most populous, with 71,057 residents in 2007; Plymouth, Mass., had 55,188. There is just one township in the United States named "Pilgrim." Located in Dade County, Mo., its population was 130. And then there is Mayflower, Ark., whose population was 2,134.
Source: Population estimates <http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb08-106.html>, <http://factfinder.census.gov/>

116 million

Number of households across the nation -- all potential gathering places for people to celebrate the holiday.
Source: Families and Living Arrangements: 2007 <http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/marital_status_living_arrangements/cb08-115.html>

Following is a list of observances typically covered by the Census Bureau's Facts for Features series:

  • African-American History Month (February)
  • Super Bowl XLII (Feb. 3)
  • Valentine's Day (Feb. 14)
  • Women's History Month (March)
  • Irish-American Heritage Month (March)/
          St. Patrick's Day (March 17)
  • Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month (May)
  • Older Americans Month (May)
  • Cinco de Mayo (May 5)
  • Mother's Day (May 11)
  • Hurricane Season Begins (June 1)
  • Father's Day (June 15)
  • The Fourth of July (July 4)
  • Anniversary of Americans With Disabilities Act (July 26)
  • Back to School (August)
  • Labor Day (Sept. 1)
  • Grandparents Day (Sept. 7)
  • Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15)
  • Unmarried and Single Americans Week (Sept. 21-27)
  • Halloween (Oct. 31)
  • American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month (November)
  • Veterans Day (Nov. 11)
  • Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 27)
  • The Holiday Season (December)

Editor’s note: The preceding data were collected from a variety of sources and may be subject to sampling variability and other sources of error. Facts for Features are customarily released about two months before an observance in order to accommodate magazine production timelines. Questions or comments should be directed to the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office: telephone: 301-763-3030; fax: 301-763-3762; or e-mail: <PIO@census.gov>.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | PIO@census.gov | Last Revised: February 10, 2014