Turkeys are certainly attractive birds, but they don’t have teeth. In fact, virtually all birds lack pearly whites. That tidbit begs the question: How do turkeys eat?
When it’s mealtime, a turkey’s beak scoops up some delicious blades of grass, berries, grains, seeds, or other pieces of food. Next, its salivary glands get to work, moistening and breaking down that grub. The turkey’s tongue then forces the food backwards, and it drops into the crop, which is like a little storage container within the esophagus.
Eventually, the food makes its way into the stomach; the acids there tear it apart even more. In addition, a turkey’s stomach contains a section with thick walls called the gizzard. Turkeys often swallow little stones, and they go right into the gizzard. That way, when morsels pass through, they rub against the stones, which rips them into even tinier shreds.
At last, the food goes into the intestines, and the turkey’s body takes out the nutrients that it needs for survival and nourishment. The bird, of course, excretes the rest.
No Turkeys at the Original Holiday Dinner?
With all of this turkey talk, you might start to wonder something else: Why do people eat these feathered creatures on the fourth Thursday of every November?
Many folks assume that the Pilgrims and Native Americans ate turkeys at the original Thanksgiving dinner way back in 1621, and that’s the reason we do so now. However, it’s possible that they ate geese, ducks, or even swans at that historic event instead.
During the 1850s, the journals of William Bradford, a Pilgrim who served for decades as the governor of his colony, were discovered. Before that time, those documents had been missing for about 100 years. They quickly became popular reading across the country. In those texts, Bradford discusses the turkeys that the Pilgrims would hunt. Thus, Pilgrims and turkeys became permanently linked in the public’s imagination.
A Bird Becomes a Tradition
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a federal holiday, and turkeys became the perfect choice for that day’s main course. After all, they’re relatively big, and they’re full of tasty meat.
At that time, this kind of poultry wasn’t consumed all that often. Therefore, it seemed like a true holiday indulgence. This meat was affordable as well. Unlike cows that provided milk, roosters that woke people up, and hens that laid eggs, turkeys didn’t serve humans any useful purpose unless they were served on a plate.
Giving Thanks for Healthy Mouths
Today, Thanksgiving dinner isn’t merely delicious. It can also provide your gums and teeth with vital nutrients. Turkey is full of protein. Yams are bursting with vitamin C, which fortifies gums; just try to avoid candied yams. Mashed potatoes will supply you with potassium and vitamin B6, both of which promote oral health. For their part, pumpkins are loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, which can help heal ailing gums, and magnesium, which strengthens enamel.
Let’s not forget the appetizers. Cheese has calcium, which also makes enamel harder. On top of that, nuts, carrots, and other crunchy snacks stimulate the release of saliva, clearing the mouth of harmful microbes. Thus, although turkeys don’t have teeth, Turkey Day can be very helpful to yours.