November 28, 2013

Why Don't We Eat Turkey Eggs?

Why Don't We Eat Turkey Eggs?

According to the National Turkey Federation, the average American ate 16 pounds of turkey in 2012.  On Thanksgiving alone, it’s estimated Americans consume 46 million turkeys.  And even though turkey eggs are edible and similar in taste to chicken eggs, they aren’t as widely consumed. 

The economics of egg production lend a sizable advantage to producing chicken eggs over turkey eggs.  Patty Fuhs of Turkey Downs, a turkey farm in Montgomery, Ind., says most turkey producers use turkey eggs for producing more turkeys rather than selling the eggs.  She says turkeys are more expensive and require more time to produce eggs, consume twice as much feed and lay one-third as many eggs as chickens. 

The average size of a turkey is 16 to 17 pounds compared to 3 to 4 pounds for an average sized chicken.  A chicken lays approximately 300 eggs per year while the average turkey produces only 100 or so.  Not only do turkeys produce fewer eggs but they also require more time to come into egg production.  Chickens come into production at 19 to 20 weeks, while turkeys require 32 weeks. 

Turkeys also tend to go broody easily which could hinder a large scale turkey egg operation.  Broodiness occurs when a bird wants to sit on their eggs and incubate them.  Chickens have broodiness bred out of them and otherwise have no desire to incubate their offspring and be maternal.

Culinary factors also contribute to the dearth of turkey egg consumption.  Turkey eggs have a thicker and tougher shell membrane and are harder to break than chicken eggs.  Furthermore, most recipes are designed for the amount of liquid in a chicken egg.  The weight of a large chicken egg is 50 grams, while the weight of a turkey egg is 80 grams. Such a difference could cause dreadful results in ones pumpkin pie.

Fred Schnell of Gobble Development in Birdseye, Ind. whose operation produces male turkeys called toms rather than female egg-laying turkey hens says that some people eat what are called mound oysters from the toms.  Mound oysters are turkey testicles -- different type of egg, says Schnell. 

There are health and regulatory concerns with producing turkey eggs as well.  Feed ingredients can be transferred from a turkey hen to an egg and the USDA must clear these ingredients as safe for human consumption.  And while these ingredients have been cleared for chickens, they have not been cleared for turkeys.

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