Stories tagged turkey


The University of Minnesota's College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences published a summary of turkey-related research just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Yum!: Destined for a Thanksgiving plate near you
Yum!: Destined for a Thanksgiving plate near youCourtesy nick macneill

For those of you who have better things to do today (because the work's still gotta get done despite the short week) or short attention spans (because the No Homework Zone of Thanksgiving vacation is almost here), I've included some of my own highlights from the article below. You're welcome.

  • At around 49 million turkeys, Minnesota leads the nation in turkey production.
  • Modern commercially grown turkeys have to be artificially inseminated (human-assisted reproduction) due to breeding for other traits like big, meaty breasts.
  • Turkey reproductive cycles are affected by light. For maximum egg production, hens need 14 hours of daylight.
  • "Broodiness" is a legit condition that occurs among hens that signals the end of egg production for a season.
  • U of M researcher, El Halawani and his colleagues discovered that broodiness is caused by a specific brain chemical and is preventable through vaccination. The vaccine is patented, but not yet commercially adopted.
  • About 70% of the cost of raising a turkey goes to feed.
  • U of M researcher, Sally Noll researches the ability of ethanol byproduct DDGS to economically supplement a turkey's diet.
  • Despite high industry demand, poultry science students are in low supply.
  • Oh, and one more (for your Thanksgiving day Trivial Pursuit game):

    "The costume that 'Big Bird' wears on Sesame Street is rumored to be made of turkey feathers."

In honor of tomorrow's holiday, I'm resurrecting (no pun intended) our homage to the traditional main course.

wild turkey
wild turkeyCourtesy SMM

November 2006 Object of the Month

Of course, the turkey you enjoy will likely be domestic, not wild. And there's a pretty good chance that, no matter where you live in the US, your turkey came from Minnesota. (Minnesota is the #1 producer of US turkeys, raising some 45 million birds each year.) So enjoy a little hometown pride with your dinner.


Remembering Çatalhöyük

Changes at Çatalhöyük
Changes at ÇatalhöyükCourtesy Ziggurat

When I try to recall how long I have been blogging here at Science Buzz, I do a search for my post about Çatalhöyük. Soon after I first started volunteering in 2000, SMM had an exhibit about Çatalhöyük. To develop the exhibit and website several members of the Science Museum staff visited the dig site in Turkey. The 25 year project, now about 75% done, is going to see some changes..

Time for new blood at Çatalhöyük

Head archaeologist, Ian Hodder, in an e-mail notifying staff of their dismissal stated

the project “needs new energy—that is, new questions, new theoretical perspectives, ... new methods.”
“It has been a really remarkable team,” Hodder says. But, “I have felt over recent years that the project was getting comfortable with itself and so not challenging each other or me or the assumptions that we were all taking for granted.” Science Insider

Hodder says he plans to recruit new lab leaders for the next phase of excavations, planned for 2012–18, although he has not yet spelled out what new questions he intends to pursue.

Learn more about Çatalhöyük

Çatalhöyük links and resources


World's first temple?

Gobekli temple
Gobekli templeCourtesy Phraotes
Around 8000 BC, what is believed to be the world's first temple, was intentionally buried under thousands of tons of earth. Only about 1.5% of the site's total area has been excavated, so theories about what it was should be considered preliminary. Carbon-dating shows that the complex is at least 12,000 years old, maybe even 13,000 years old. This is pre-pottery, pre-writing, pre-almost-everything. It is 7000 years older than the pyramids. Çatalhöyük, thought to be one of the ealiest villages, is 2,000 years later.

Religious organization enabled larger projects

Klaus Schmidt believes that Gobekli Tepe was a place of worship, a sanctuary that attracted peoples from great distances to offer sacrifices. An elite class of religious leaders probably supervised the erection of the huge stone monoliths thought to represent ancestors.
Gobekli monolith
Gobekli monolithCourtesy Zunkir

Archaeologists estimate that up to 500 persons were required to extract the 10-20 ton pillars (in fact, some weigh up to 50 tons) from local quarries and move them 100 to 500m to the site.

Birthplace for farming

Imagine an area with lush green meadows, ringed by woods and wild orchards, herds of game, rivers of fish, and flocks of wildfowl. Such a plentiful source of food could support hundreds of people. If natural fields of wild grain were being eaten by wild game, the people might learn to cooperate to drive them away from this easy food source. The next step would be to help nature "plant" its seeds over a larger area.

Garden of Eden?

Many scholars view the Garden of Eden story as folk-memory, or allegory. As indicated in the Book of Genesis, Eden, like Gobekli was west of Assyria. Gobekli may have been a place where hunter-gatherers could pluck fruit from the trees, scoop fish from the rivers and spend the rest of their days in worshiping. When their increased numbers outgrew what nature offered they tried to grow their own.

As we began farming, we changed the landscape and the climate. When the trees were chopped down, the soil leached away; all that ploughing and reaping left the land eroded and bare. What was once an agreeable oasis became a land of stress, toil and diminishing returns.

Learn more about Gobekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe: Wikipedia
The World's First Temple:
Do these mysterious stones mark the site of the Garden of Eden?: DailyMail

Here's a whale tale of a super-sized Thanksgiving feast cooked up in Minneapolis on Thanksgiving. So how long does it take to roast a 72-pound turkey? Click here to read more. This story comes on the heels of last week's Science Buzz post about the myths of tryptophan.


You're getting sleepy: Is it the tryptophan in the turkey that makes you tired on Thanksgiving or other ingredients of your big feast?
You're getting sleepy: Is it the tryptophan in the turkey that makes you tired on Thanksgiving or other ingredients of your big feast?Courtesy LonelyBob
I’ve got some friends who are already pushing the Thanksgiving envelope and having some early holiday dinners this weekend. Most of us will wait until Nov. 22 to gorge out on a big meal of turkey, and then feel quite tired and bloated from the experience.

And all of us scientific-minded people like to sound very sciency at those moments and talk about the effects that tryptophan in the turkey are having on our bodies. I’ve bought into that thinking for decades and thought I’d Google around the net to learn more about that, and was surprised to see that I’ve probably been duped.

Turkey does in fact contain high levels of tryptophan, but not anything significantly higher than lots of other meats. Tryptophan is an amino acid that our bodies can’t produce. And taken on an empty stomach, it can have a soothing, calming effect. It was even marketing as an anti-insomnia drug in the 1980s until some other significant side effects – muscle pain and death – led the government to ban it as a medication.

After a big feast, out stomachs are dealing with the amino acids from many different food sources, meaning that the tryptophan has a lot of competition in our body chemistry.

Here’s what’s more likely going on in our bodies to make us tired: the impacts of having lots of other carbohydrates in our stomachs. Carbo-heavy items like mashed potatoes, stuffing and pie take our bodies a lot of effort to digest. That internal work is a lot to handle and our bodies tire out.

So that’s the nutritional answer to why Thanksgiving dinners make us tired. I think you might also be able to chalk up your tiredness to the quality of conversation with the relatives you’re sharing the meal with or the fact that the Detroit Lions are always playing football that afternoon.

How do you deal with post-Thanksgiving dinner lethargy? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.


Thanksgiving is fast approaching and with it comes the opportunity to eat a lot of turkey. I've heard for years that the tryptophan in turkey meat makes you tired after a meal, and I've hauled out that knowledge in a Cliff Claven like fashion year after year.

Turkey.: A turkey.

Now I come to find out that it's not tryptophan that makes you sleepy, its serotonin. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps the body produce niacin, a B-Vitamin, which helps produce serotonin, which makes you sleepy. However, according to nutritionists the tryptophan in turkey works best in an empty stomach — something most of us don't have on Thanksgiving, I certainly don't. After a large meal there are so many amino acids that the body is trying to use that the amount of tryptophan could even go down. Further, turkey does not have as much tryptophan as other foods such as beef or soy beans. Tryptophan is also found in chocolate, bananas, milk, peanuts and fish.

So why do I feel tired after a huge Thanksgiving meal? Probably because the meal is full of carbohydrates — potates, stuffing, breads, pies... The body has to work hard to digest all that food!

Neat. Now I have a great new Cliff Claven-ism to stun and amaze my family.