Unpopular opinion: ditch the turkey


Grocery stores have huge turkeys on sale in preparation for Thanksgiving.

Elyse Perry, editor

Every year, on the third Thursday of November, we all gather with family to celebrate the blessings of the past year. We enjoy the company of our family, talk to the cousins we haven’t seen in months, and eat a hodgepodge of dishes brought by all the relatives. As we go down the row, heaping food onto our plates, people tend to go light on the turkey, or even skip it, leaving the hosting family with 10 pounds of dry meat to freeze and use throughout the winter. It makes you wonder, why do we keep buying this bird to serve as the main dish of our Thanksgiving holiday if nobody likes it? 

One of the main defenses I’ve heard in favor of turkey is the “It is tradition! It was at the first Thanksgiving!” excuse. For starters, this is not true. Most historians think that, if it was there at all, turkey was definitely not the main dish. It was documented by the Pilgrims that the Native Americans actually brought five deer for the feast. So, the real “traditional” meat of Thanksgiving should be venison. So, if it’s not tradition, why do we keep eating turkey?

Another big defense of eating turkey is that it feeds a lot of people. Do we really need to have more food at Thanksgiving? Since all of the family members typically bring dishes, people are usually sent home with leftovers. The hosting family tends to have to keep multiple pounds of turkey in their freezer, which gets incorporated into soups, sandwiches, and even turkey and noodles as the family attempts to clean out the fridge in preparation for Christmas. 

From experience, I know we can rule out “ease” from the reasons for making a turkey. Preparing a turkey is no small feat, especially with a twenty plus pound bird. If you have never stuck your hand in a frozen bird, consider yourself lucky. First, you have to clean out and thaw the turkey. Then, to stuff the turkey, you have to put the stuffing inside of it. It’s really not fun.

Of course, after preparing the turkey, you have to cook it. The pan you must have to even try to cook a turkey alone is enough to make someone want to buy a ham instead. The pan is flimsy, easy to bend and break, and gets really hot after cooking a turkey for hours. On top of that, you have to cook a turkey for 20 minutes per pound. When you have a huge family like mine, it ends up taking five to six hours to cook. 

Finally, when you are done cooking the turkey, you have to cut it up, or carve if you want to use the right word. This process is time consuming and frustrating and it always turns into people just picking the meat out with their fingers. While this whole process would be worthwhile if the meat was good, the meat is nearly always dry, and you can’t just cook it less because there will always be a risk of salmonella when it comes to undercooked birds. 

This brings us back to the original question: Why deal with the whole turkey situation? Evidently, the actual reason behind the turkey tradition came into play a century after the first Thanksgiving. Farmers couldn’t kill their cows because they needed milk, they needed their chickens for eggs, and sheep were not really plentiful. However, turkeys are not very useful for anything besides their meat, so that’s what they chose. So, when you think about it, when we buy a turkey, it is due to peer pressure from dead people in a time when there was no other good option. 

This Thanksgiving, do yourself a favor: don’t buy a huge turkey. Maybe don’t buy a turkey at all. It’s COVID season, so maybe relatives won’t even be able to come over and take turkey home with them, and if family can come over and you run out of turkey, it’ll be just another blessing for everyone to be thankful for.