Gobble, Gobble!

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It just isn't Thanksgiving without turkey, right? At least 91 percent of Americans agree, says Norma Grey of the National Turkey Federation. Of the 300 million turkeys raised each year, the NTF says 45 million are consumed at Thanksgiving (1), 22 million are devoured at Christmas, and 19 million are basted at Easter.

And most people prefer to eat at home. This holiday ranks seventh on the list of most popular occasions to eat out, according to a 1996 survey by the National Restaurant Association (2). Birthdays top that list, followed by Mother's Day.

But those who choose to outsource their holiday repast will have to settle for dressing on the side because of the potential health risk in undercooking, says Michael Roman, president of CaterSource, a consultancy for professional caterers (3).

And for those who find turkey meat too risky altogether, two alternatives are going national this year: UnTurkey and Tofurky (4). San Francisco-based Now & Zen expects between 15,000 and 18,000 UnTurkeys will fly out of the stores. Seth Tibbott, CEO of Hood River, Oregon-based Turtle Island Foods, estimates his 1998 Tofurky sales at 30,000 to 50,000.

The average turkey will feed about 15 people, with leftovers (5). The most popular ways to dispose of leftover turkey are sandwiches, soup, stew, salad, casserole, and stir fry, according to the National Turkey Federation (6).

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