The turkey should have been our national bird. Hearing that the bald eagle had been selected, in a 1784 letter to his daughter, Ben Franklin explained why he preferred the turkey:
“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character…too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him…”
“…For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”
Where are we going? To the economic reasons we ate turkey yesterday. (Explained first, the top ten list is further below.)
The Reasons We Eat Turkey
Thinking back to Ben Franklin, as an American bird, the turkey has had “utility” (a source of demand) because it connects to our national identity. Also during the 18th century, with most people living on the farm, the alternatives were cows, hens, roosters, venison or swans. But cows and hens were more valuable alive than dead, roosters are tough, you had to hunt for your venison and swans taste fishy unless you feed them a special wheat diet. So, whether considering utility, substitutes or opportunity cost, the turkey was the best choice.
Thanksgiving got a government endorsement when President Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863 and maybe Charles Dickens added to the turkey’s cachet with A Christmas Carol because Scrooge gave a turkey to the Cratchit family for their holiday dinner. But, much more more convincing than Charles Dickens, size and price add to the turkey’ s allure.
And that takes us to today.
A 16-pound turkey will cost you close to $21.65, 11 cents less than last year in current prices.
Our Bottom Line: Top Ten Economic Reasons For a Thanksgiving Turkey
- 10. Ben Franklin liked the turkey.
- 9. Utility: American identity and one turkey feeds many.
- 8. Opportunity cost: low price means less sacrifice.
- 7. Substitute goods: better than cows, roosters, venison, swans.
- 6. Complementary goods: irresistible stuffing and mashed potatoes.
- 5. Government: official mandate.
- 4. Marginal benefit: annual turkey price is stable.
- 3. Globalization: leftovers include turkey curry and turkey tacos.
- 2. Behavioral economics: short term pleasure worth long term cost.
- 1. After eating too much turkey on Thanksgiving, we are happy to wait a year to eat it again.