A look through the Grosvenor Room’s Local History File reveals Thanksgiving Days of yesteryear when the ability to have a turkey on the table was questionable. World War II was on and the U.S. sent troops into battle, which meant rationing on the homefront. A September 18, 1943 Courier Express newspaper article explained that the government “slapped a two way freeze order on the national turkey crop. It froze the sale of the birds until it can buy up from 15,000,000 to 20,000,000 pounds needed by the armed forces…”. When Uncle Sam had his share, the remaining turkeys would be for civilian use. By November, 1943 the Courier published two new developments. The Office of Price Administration, which oversaw rationing, was looking into possible corralling of the market to sell turkeys at over-the ceiling prices. Meanwhile, those who looked to chicken as an alternative were warned that dealers might not have enough chickens to fill the demand! Ultimately, the OPA found that the turkey trade in the Buffalo area fell within OPA ceilings.
On November 11, 1945, the Courier reported that turkey would be plentiful but “king size”. The 20 to 30 pound birds were too big for typical family ovens. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) came up with a solution–“telescoped turkey”. This involved adjusting the neck, cutting an inch of the “rudder”off as well as the wing tips and tying down the legs and wings so they fit tightly to the body.
After recovering from World War II, turkey prices managed to climb and stay high. The Courier reported on October 15, 1952 there had been a record breaking crop of turkeys but the purchase of the birds for school lunches by the U.S.D.A. would keep prices high. Two other factors in pricing included the popularity of the new Beltsville White turkey (it’s the genetic foundation practically every turkey sold today) and the gradual trend toward extending turkey consumption throughout the year.
The Courier noted on November 23, 1971 that driving out to the farm to buy a fresh-dressed turkey for Thanksgiving had been on the way out since the end of World War II. They found only three farms in Erie County where one could order the “holiday bird”. Modern farming techniques allowed higher production while rapid transporation and the convenience of shopping at the plaza market made turkey a much more regular visitor on the menu.
If you’re looking for different angle on turkey, get the history behind the 115th Annual Turkey Trot. 12,500 runners are registered for this year’s event. Happy Thanksgiving!