When the Pilgrims and Wampanoags first gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts way back in 1621, they couldn’t have known they were starting a tradition of giving thanks while feasting with family and friends that would endure for centuries. Celebrated sporadically in the intervening years, in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln gave in to the pleas of writer Sara Josepha Hale (who penned “Mary Had a Little Lamb” among other things) and declared the fourth Thursday of November to be a national Day of Thanksgiving.
Gathering with friends and family to enjoy a feast and reflect on one’s blessings has become a highly anticipated event for many of us. While the Pilgrims and Native Americans might not have had turkey on the first Thanksgiving menu (the record is unclear), the noble bird is certainly the centerpiece of today’s festivities.
Some 46 million turkeys get cooked for the holiday each year, with almost 88% of Americans eating turkey on the big day. More than three-fourths of the whole birds sold annually are bought during the month of November, with breasts and other cuts being more popular the rest of the year.
While Minnesota is the top state when it comes to producing turkeys, North Carolina is right behind in second place, making the poultry business a major contributor to the state’s economy. According to the NC Poultry Federation, last year the industry was responsible for over $37 billion in total economic activity throughout the state and was directly responsible for over 140,000 jobs.
Like everyone else, poultry workers pay income taxes on their wages, property taxes on their homes, and sales taxes on the things they buy. It is estimated that the poultry industry is responsible for paying about $2.12 billion in federal taxes and $1.15 billion in state and local taxes. Clearly, without turkeys and related poultry operations, including chicken and egg production, North Carolinians would be scrambling to find other ways to make up this revenue.
Many of us like to serve sweet potatoes alongside our holiday turkey, and since 1971 North Carolina has been the nation’s top sweet potato producer. It is estimated that this tasty vegetable has an economic impact of over $170 million annually in our state.
North Carolina is also fourth in the country when it comes to producing pumpkins, which contributes millions of dollars to the state’s economy. With farmer’s markets across the state, it’s easy to round out the holiday meal with a variety of fresh, locally produced vegetables and dairy products that likewise add to the state’s coffers. In fact, according to researchers at NC State University, agriculture is the state’s leading economic driver, employing 17% of the state’s workforce while providing food, fuel, and clothing for people around the world.
While no one should spend Thanksgiving Day thinking about taxes, it’s nice to know that those who make our holiday feast possible are also contributing to our local and state economy. Without the poultry, sweet potato, and pumpkin industries, we’d all be paying higher taxes to cover the revenue created by these businesses. And that’s certainly something to be thankful for!