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Turkeys Prove Big Business For State's Farmers

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ASHEBORO, N.C. — Ben Franklin once proposed the turkey as North Carolina's national bird. It was a losing proposition, in part because turkeys were seen as animals of inferior intelligence. Nevertheless, turkeys have become a regular part of American culture, especially this time of year.

In North Carolina, turkeys are a valuable commodity. North Carolina ranks No. 1 in the nation in turkey production.

Farmers grow 50 million birds a year in what has become a $500 million industry.

For those deciding whether to buy a frozen turkey or a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving, experts say the only difference in the two is price, and this year, a glut of turkeys is forcing prices down in grocery stores.

"The turkey business is year 'round," Randolph County farmer Keith McDonald said. "But there is more of a push for holidays, for Thanksgiving and Christmas."

Raising turkeys can be challenging, primarily because of the animals' own behavior. McDonald said they often have to be protected from their own curiosity.

"They just can't be still," he said. "They are going to look for something to peck on, or scratch or dig, or tear up or whatever.

"I just don't know what goes through their mind. But if you just watch them for a while, you'll understand," McDonald said.

Many people may prefer eating turkeys to watching them, which is fine with McDonald, who said he is counting on a lot of people being hungry this Thanksgiving.

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