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Testing, Testing, Turkey

Post contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Librarian.

A few days ago, I went searching (in the catalog) for the perfect Thanksgiving-related item and came across a folder titled “Turkey Test, 1951-1952”  in the papers of Theodore “Ted” Minah. What kind of test could Minah, the Director of Duke University Dining Halls from 1946 to 1974, be conducting on turkeys? Was it a taste test or some sort of “mystery meat” challenge? Was he investigating the sleep-inducing properties of turkey meat?  Was he out to prove that turkeys really are as dumb as they are rumored to be?

Sadly (for us), Minah was a practical fellow and it was none of those things. Minah, who worked hard to provide quality food at the lowest price to the university, wanted to know if turkey could be a cost effective meat option for campus dining halls. The test was part of an effort by the National Turkey Federation (NTF), an organization representing turkey farmers and processors, to better market the turkey and get more turkey on more American tables. (The NTF is also the organization that provides turkeys for the annual White House turkey pardon.)

Chart showing the results of the Duke turkey test.
Chart showing the results of the Duke turkey test.

Duke, along with dining offices at other schools, participated in a 1951 study to determine how much edible meat a cooked turkey yielded and how much a single serving of turkey would cost. Led by Food Production Manager Majorie Knapp, Duke cooked several whole turkeys and took detailed measurements before and after cooking. Duke’s test used Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys from Sampson County, North Carolina which, according to Minah, “is a delicious eating turkey.”

According to the results of the Duke test, turkey would cost around $1.50 per pound of cooked meat and around $0.20 per serving. In her summary, Knapp noted that the price for chicken was cheaper at $1.37 per pound. A serving of chicken would be a few cents cheaper than turkey.

Marjorie Knapp’s turkey test report.

The test results were submitted and later included in NTF marketing materials designed to get turkey on the menu at places like schools, hotels, and hospitals. In addition to the study results and Ted Minah’s correspondence about the study, the “Turkey Test” folder also includes a few of these industry publications.

Turkey marketing materials from the Ted Minah papers.

The booklets and brochures, with catchy titles like “Carving the Turkey for Portion Control and Greater Profit” and “Pre-Cut Turkeys for Institutional Use,” mostly contain recipes and instructions for properly cooking a turkey. The recipes were certainly creative.  Creamed Turkey in Pastry Tart, Turkey Salad Roll, and Turkey Chow Mein on Chinese Noodles (to name just a few) were suggested as “profit-making turkey dishes.”

 

 

list of turkey recipes
“Profit-making” recipe ideas from the National Turkey Federation.

If you are desperately seeking things to do with all of those turkey leftovers, the NTF has your back. You could make a Jellied Turkey Salad, put some gibblets on toast, or impress your guests with jellied turkey feet. They even provide tips on what to do with the carcass!

Turkey recipes including jellied turkey and turkey feet.
More turkey recipes including 33 ways to serve turkey and how to best use that turkey carcass.

The Ted Minah materials include one more turkey item worth mentioning. He was sent a booklet of photos showing turkeys frolicking on a farm. It includes a photo of a turkey that doesn’t seem particularly pleased to have his photo taken for the purposes of marketing his own deliciousness as food.

Turkey snapshot featuring turkey that’s not having a good time.

If your uncle brings up politics at Thanksgiving dinner, just turn the conversation toward the fun facts you learned in this blog post and then you can all bond over your love of jellied turkey feet.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Feeling hot, hot, hot

Happy Friday! Preparing for our upcoming renovation continues at the Rubenstein. This book’s title made us giggle, especially considering the high temperatures we’ve been facing lately in Durham. If you’d like to learn more about Spontaneous Combustion: A Literary Curiosity, you can check out the catalog record. It is a 1937 medical publication discussing cases of spontaneous combustion in literature.

For more photos of our favorite renovation discoveries, visit the Rubenstein’s Flickr page.