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How turkey became a fast food

by 5m Editor
7 February 2007, at 3:36pm

UK - Time was when turkey was rare; a seasonal treat. These days you are as likely to find it bulking out briny hot dogs or pet food, as come across it at Christmas lunch.

The grisly fate of the 160,000 turkeys gassed at a Bernard Matthews farm in Suffolk this week is the latest regrettable twist in the history of the bird.

Even its name derives from a cock up - 16th Century Europeans confused the bird with the guinea fowl, which had recently been introduced to Europe by the Turkish.

By the 19th Century, however, turkey had an esteemed culinary status in the UK, when it was beloved of the upper and middle classes as a quality food, says food historian Ivan Day.

Fast-forward a century or so, and it has become as unremarkable as beans on toast, and every bit as cheap.

From pre-prepared oven-ready steaks to frozen breaded drumsticks, turkey is a staple of many a modern diet. In its mechanically-recovered form, it even crops up in such culinary delights as gravy powder, pet food, diet chicken curry and tinned mini hot dogs.

A popular variety of novelty luncheon sausage uses turkey to render the face of a children's cartoon character.

Today, almost half the flesh consumed in the UK is poultry, and turkey accounts for 6% of the meat market as a whole. UK breeders reared more than 17 million turkeys for our consumption last year.

In its unprocessed state, turkey was the only meat to make it onto an influential list of 14 "superfoods" to eat for health and vitality (along with blueberries, broccoli and walnuts). And with meat high in protein and low in fat, it's a favourite with followers of the Atkins, Zone, GI and South Beach diets.

Source: BBC News

5m Editor