Can Turkey Predict A Recession?

Oh, the mighty turkey!

If Benjamin Franklin had his way, this proud bird would have been the national mascot for the United States. Unfortunately for Ben, the bald eagle was chosen instead. However, the turkey was not forgotten. It’s now the national mascot for Thanksgiving, as millions of birds fill the nation’s dinner table on a Thursday afternoon.

Over 88% of American families enjoy turkey for Thanksgiving. According to the National Turkey Federation, 736 million pounds of turkey were consumed on Thanksgiving in 2015 alone.

We were dabbling around in various economic data, and were very interested to see that a drop in turkey consumption proceeded the Great Depression of 2007-2009. We asked ourselves, could America’s appetite for Turkey be a leading indicator for the economy as a whole? After all, its fabled that Turkey was chosen as the plat du jour because of its affordability; a 20 pound turkey for $20 can feed almost 10 people – depending on how hungry they are.

*Legend is based off of the percent change of whole turkey and whole chicken consumption per capita and the real GDP.
*Greyed columns represent times of recession.

We compared fowl consumption on an annual basis with the United States GDP to see if the short term trend we found held up over time. The good news is that many families enjoy eating turkey each year, but alas, the data suggests that there is no leading correlation between how much turkey we eat each year and the economic growth rate of the United States.

Next year, we may take a look at pumpkin pie.

Here are some Turkey Day Facts that have spanned the centuries.

In 1621, the MayFlower came to the ‘new world’ with pilgrims held a feast with the aborigines, which is documented as the very first Thanksgiving. Strangely enough (or maybe not), there was no turkey served at the first Thanksgiving.

In 1863, Sarah Hale, writer of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, urged Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in the U.S. This was due to the fact that it was only celebrated in various regions of New England on dates ranging from October to January.

And in 1941, perhaps we have the great FDR to thank for Black Friday. Thanksgiving Day was moved to the fourth week of November thanks to FDR attempting to boost the retail economy during the Great Depression. Thanksgiving was also coined ‘Franksgiving’ for several years after.



  1. Chip says:

    Really good stuff.

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