How many turkeys are eaten in the US each year?

Americans love turkey, especially during the holidays. In fact, turkey consumption in the US has steadily increased over the past several decades. But just how many turkeys are consumed each year by Americans? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Quick Facts on Turkey Consumption

Here are some key facts on turkey consumption in the US:

  • In 2020, over 46 million turkeys were eaten at Thanksgiving alone.
  • For Christmas, an additional 22 million turkeys were consumed.
  • In total, over 672 million pounds of turkey were produced in the US in 2020.
  • Per capita, the average American ate 16 pounds of turkey in 2020.
  • The top turkey producing states are Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, California, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.

As you can see, turkey is deeply ingrained in American food culture, especially during the holiday months of November and December. But turkey consumption is steadily rising during the rest of the year as well.

Turkey Consumption at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is by far the top holiday for eating turkey in America. In 2020, around 46 million turkeys were cooked and eaten during Thanksgiving. This is estimated based on surveys by the National Turkey Federation.

To put this into perspective, if you lined up 46 million turkeys end to end, the line would stretch for over 9,000 miles! That’s over a third of the circumference of the entire Earth.

This number has risen steadily over the last several decades, as the chart below indicates:

Year Number of Turkeys Eaten (Millions)
1975 32
1985 41
1995 45
2005 45.6
2015 46
2020 46

In 1975, just 32 million turkeys were eaten for Thanksgiving. But with American households growing in number, and Thanksgiving turkey gaining popularity, that number has increased steadily over the decades.

Turkey Consumption at Christmas

While Thanksgiving sees the highest turkey consumption, Christmas comes in second place. In 2020, around 22 million turkeys were cooked and eaten for Christmas meals.

Eating turkey for Christmas, as opposed to the more traditional Christmas hams and roasts, has become an increasingly popular tradition over the last 40 years. Turkeys are often cheaper than other meats per pound, feeding a crowd, and easier to cook than roasts.

Here’s a look at the turkeys eaten at Christmas since 1975:

Year Number of Turkeys Eaten (Millions)
1975 12
1985 18
1995 22
2005 22.5
2015 21.5
2020 22

In 1975, only 12 million Christmas turkeys were eaten – less than half the current number. The tradition of eating turkey for Christmas grew steadily through the 1980s and 90s before leveling off around 22 million birds in the last decade.

Total Turkey Production in the US

Adding up the turkeys for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all other occasions, how many turkeys are produced in total in the United States each year?

Total turkey production hit 672 million pounds in 2020. This is estimated by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

That equates to around 224 million total turkeys produced, when taking into account the average turkey size of 16 pounds.

Here are the total turkey production numbers over the last decade:

Year Turkey Production (Million Pounds)
2010 683
2011 688
2012 676
2013 666
2014 693
2015 666
2016 645
2017 639
2018 660
2019 678
2020 672

Turkey production has fluctuated between 640 million to 690 million pounds over the last decade, settling at around 670 million pounds in recent years.

Per Capita Turkey Consumption

Based on the total turkey production and US population numbers, how much turkey does the average American consume each year?

In 2020, with around 224 million turkeys produced and 331 million Americans, the per capita turkey consumption was:

224 million turkeys / 331 million Americans = 0.68 turkeys per American

With the average turkey weighing 16 pounds, that’s:

0.68 turkeys x 16 pounds per turkey = 10.9 pounds of turkey per American

So the average American ate nearly 11 pounds of turkey in 2020. Of course, this varies widely based on individual tastes and preferences. Some vegetarians and vegans eat no turkey, while others may consume 2 or 3 birds each year.

Here’s a look at the per capita turkey consumption over the last decade:

Year Per Capita Consumption (Pounds)
2010 11.2
2011 11.3
2012 10.9
2013 10.7
2014 11.1
2015 10.8
2016 10.5
2017 10.3
2018 10.5
2019 10.7
2020 10.9

Per capita consumption has hovered right around 11 pounds per person over the last decade, dipping down slightly in the mid 2010s before recovering to just under 11 pounds recently.

Top Turkey Producing States

Turkeys are raised and harvested in many states across America, but some top the list in turkey production.

Here are the top 10 turkey producing states in 2020:

  1. Minnesota – 49 million turkeys
  2. North Carolina – 39 million turkeys
  3. Arkansas – 29 million turkeys
  4. Virginia – 20 million turkeys
  5. Missouri – 19 million turkeys
  6. Indiana – 15 million turkeys
  7. California – 13 million turkeys
  8. South Carolina – 10 million turkeys
  9. Pennsylvania – 8 million turkeys
  10. Michigan – 7 million turkeys

The Midwestern states, along with North Carolina, lead turkey production by a significant margin. Cool climates combined with plentiful grain for feed make these regions ideal for raising turkeys.

Minnesota ranks number one, producing around 22% of the nation’s turkeys each year. In fact, nearly one out of every two turkeys consumed in America comes from Minnesota.

The turkey producers in these states work year-round to supply the nation with enough birds to meet the surging holiday demand in November and December.

The Future of Turkey Consumption

Will Americans continue to eat more and more turkey in the years ahead? Or has consumption peaked?

According to National Turkey Federation projections, turkey consumption is expected to hold steady at right around 16 pounds per person for the foreseeable future. They don’t expect any huge jumps in consumption, but no declines either.

One trend that could affect turkey consumption is the rise of alternative meat options like plant-based meat. However, National Turkey Federation experts say they are not too concerned about this impacting demand.

When it comes to the holidays, even households incorporating alternative proteins still tend to center Thanksgiving and Christmas meals around real turkey.

The taste, traditions, and experience of eating turkey are central to these occasions for most American families and gatherings.


Turkey has become an iconic American food, especially during the holidays. Americans now consume well over 200 million turkeys per year, eating around 16 pounds of turkey meat per person.

Thanksgiving is the top turkey holiday, with around 46 million birds cooked and eaten. Christmas comes in second with 22 million turkeys consumed.

Per capita consumption has leveled off at around 11 pounds per person the last several years. And the top turkey producing states are in the Midwest and North Carolina.

All signs point to turkey remaining a central part of American holiday traditions and meals for years to come.

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