AGRICULTURE: A Lesson From the Turkeys

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To give more shopping days before Christmas, thus help retailers, President Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving Day from this week to last. But because many a State and individual paid no heed, he unintentionally helped the turkey business too. Reason: restaurants, hotels, clubs must supply two turkey dinners instead of one. U. S. turkey production hit an all-time record: 33,138,000 birds this year, up from 1939's 32,732,000, far above 1929's 16,794,000. For turkey farmers this means $80,000,000 this year, against $72,549,000 in 1939, and only $53,398,000 in 1929.

One reason for the boom is this fact: turkeys eat less (per pound of growth) than chickens. By the time he weighs 3½ lb., a White Leghorn cockerel has packed away over 20 lb. of feed, a male turkey less than 10 lb. Turkey ranchers increased their flocks; prices fell from 60¢ or more a pound in 1927 to less than 30¢ now.

Though cheap eaters, baby turks are delicate, cannot get their black feet wet without dying before Thanksgiving. Hence some growers tie on mittenlike rubber boots, or keep the birds off the ground, on wire. Fortnight ago a bad storm froze $10,000,000 worth of turkeys in Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa. The storm boosted prices slightly, yet at 26-30¢ Thanksgiving turkeys were less than chicken.

Having brilliantly demonstrated economic lesson No. 1—lower prices to increase sales—turkey raisers are now working on lesson No. 2—keep the product up to date. Because ovens and families have grown smaller, big turkeys (20 to 30 Ib.) meet sales resistance. So the Department of Agriculture bred "streamlined" turkeys. The new birds go from egg to table in six months, are white-feathered, weigh up to 10 Ib., have more white meat. Last week, Manhattan's R. H. Macy capitalized on modernized, white-feathered, turkeys. Adopting Cadillac's 1933 limited-edition policy, it offered 750 "birds divine" to first comers, sold all but the biggest.