It’s not Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter or Passover, but by decree of Governor Bob McDonnell, June 2012 is Virginia Turkey Lovers’ Month. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), it’s the ideal time to celebrate the delicious taste, versatility, high quality nutrition and cooking ease of one of Virginia’s top agricultural products. Although holiday traditions at other times of the year may seem be a more appropriate choice for Turkey Lovers’ Month, the June celebration emphasizes turkey’s year-round popularity.
Whether grilled or fried outdoors or made into a cool and refreshing turkey salad for a hot summer’s day, turkey is an ideal choice for summer dining. You can appease the children with turkey hot dogs or meat balls while adults wait for more sophisticated fare like Grilled Turkey Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette. (Recipe)
In June, or any time of year, when you are talking turkey, there is a lot to celebrate. Foremost is outstanding taste. It comes in a wide variety of cuts and products including whole birds, quick-cooking cutlets, tenderloins, ground turkey, sausage, ham, franks and deli meats. It is adaptable to cooking methods from stovetop and microwave to oven and grill. Turkey works well in spicy dishes and can substitute for higher-fat meats in spaghetti sauce, pizza, quiche, meatballs or burgers.
On the health front, turkey is a nutrient-dense, low-fat, high-protein food. A 3-ounce serving of roasted, skinless turkey breast contains 14.52 grams of protein, 1.41 grams of fat, 3.58 grams of carbohydrates and only 88 calories.
Since 1970, per capita consumption of turkey in the U.S. has increased 102 percent, from 8.1 pounds then to 16.4 pounds in 2010. More and more Americans are realizing that turkey is not just for the holidays. Although 50 percent of all turkey consumed in 1970 was during the holidays, today that number is around 31 percent as more people enjoy delicious turkey year-round.
Turkey is big business in Virginia. Virginia ranks fifth in the nation for the number of birds raised, with 17 million turkeys raised in the Commonwealth in 2010. With the value added to turkey through processing into a wide variety of cuts, parts and further processed products, the total value of turkey processors’ production in 2009 was more than $16 billion.
Like domestic turkey consumption, turkey exports continued to grow throughout the past decades. In 1992, U.S. turkey producers sent $151 million worth of turkey overseas. In 2010, exports had grown to $464 million. Mexico, China, Hong Kong, Canada and the Dominican Republic are the largest recipients of American turkey. (Source for statistics: National Turkey Federation)
Another important turkey milestone is occurring this year as a turkey farmer in Virginia is raising the National Thanksgiving Turkey. The turkey is expected to be presented to the President of the United States in November 2012, and if history repeats itself, will be pardoned by President Obama and live the rest of its life at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate.
Celebrate Turkey Lovers’ Month by trying a new turkey recipe from the National Turkey Federation’s website. Search their recipe database to find just what you are looking for. You can specify dish type, ethnicity, meal type, occasion, preparation method and product type as well as indicate your preference for low fat, low carb, low calorie, low cholesterol or low sodium. Bon appétit.