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Talking turkey: U.S. is tops in turkey exports

As Thanksgiving approaches, many people are planning their traditional holiday meal. In most American households, that meal includes turkey.

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While Thanksgiving accounts for one-fifth of annual turkey consumption, turkey is still a major player in the meat industry year-round.

And now more than ever, turkey is a major part of the export market.

In 1980, turkey exports accounted for only 3.4 percent of production. By 2012, exports accounted for 12.6 percent of U.S. turkey production (1 in 8 turkeys).

Turkey production has increased 143 percent over the last 32 years in the U.S. and per capita annual consumption of turkey has increased from 10.3 pounds in 1980 to 16.0 pounds in 2012.

The U.S. and the European Union (EU) together accounted for 85 percent of world turkey production in 2012. But while the U.S. saw a 4.4 percent increase in production over the last decade, the EU saw a 4.2 percent decline.

In 2002, the EU was the world’s largest exporter of turkey, followed by the U.S. In 2012, the U.S. surpassed the EU in turkey exports.