I heard this interview on NPR the other day with Stephen Dubner, the author of Freakonomics, and I just can’t get it out of my mind. He asked Kai Ryssdal what percentage of the 40 million Thanksgiving turkeys Americans will eat this year are products of artificial insemination. Ryssdal made a few guesses and then Dubner amazed him with the answer; 100%.
Although I didn’t quite understand why, I found that factoid moderately disturbing. Then, Dubner went on to explain why our friendly fowl aren’t doing it anymore these day. This put me over the edge.
As is usually the case with sex, it’s all about appetite. Only in this case, it’s more about human appetite than turkey hunger. You see, Americans have an overwhelming preference for breast meat. (I’ll leave you to unravel the psychology behind that.) So to meet the demand for that most sumptuous body part, the turkey industry turned their backs on traditional turkeys in favor of breeding the broad-breasted white turkey which has been selectively bred to have the largest breasts possible.
The caveat to messing with mother nature, however, is that sometimes there are serious repercussions. According to this chick from the USDA, the turkey breasts are now so large that they actually get in the way and make old-fashioned turkey sex impossible.
Isn’t that…ironic…and…weird? So to satisfy our appetites for breast meat, we’ve done away with turkey coitus. Somehow that just doesn’t seem right to me.
I was explaining this to my dancer friend the other night and she said it sounded a lot like what happened in her burlesque dance class this week. For anyone who doesn’t know, Burlesque is a form of dance designed to allure and tease men sexually. She usually draws a big crowd on Wednesday nights. But this week a couple of the regulars were missing. When she inquired as to their whereabouts, she learned that one of the women couldn’t dance for a few weeks due to breast enhancement surgery. The other was out because she had had to schedule her quarterly Botox treatment that day. (Apparently, you cannot dance the same day you inject.)
At first I didn’t make the connection. But after a moment, I realized how frightfully similar these human behaviors were to our abstinent avians. The truth is, we spend so much time trying to force our bodies to look sexually appealing that we skip the act that might really lead us to sexual fulfillment. The women in the dance class spent time, energy and wads of cash to look alluring in order to attract romantic (or sexual) partners.
The turkeys were being designed with ever-increasing sexual organs, only to be unable to actually follow through with the act. The only difference I can see here is that, unlike the turkeys, the women actually chose their bodily disfigurement. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not slamming anyone for choosing cosmetic surgery. I’m just pointing out that there’s often a price to pay for messing with what nature gave us.
So think twice before ingesting that hormone bloated turkey breast this Thanksgiving. Maybe a good ol’ drumstick will do the trick instead.