The truth behind Thanksgiving myths

Carl Bialik, The Numbers Guy over at The Wall Street Journal, breaks down some of the most popular Thanksgiving myths. Is Thanksgiving actually the busiest travel time of the year? Do Americans really consume 46 million turkeys over the holiday? Bialik says both claims are not supported by government data.

The National Turkey Federation estimates that 46 million turkeys will be eaten over Thanksgiving. The number is based off of projected turkey purchases throughout the month of November.  IBISWorld USA, a market research firm, estimates 47 million. Bialik explains how both of these numbers are an exaggeration:

“Based on reports from slaughterhouses, the [United States Department of Agriculture] says 23% of the 270 million turkeys processed in the U.S. last year, by pounds, were drawn down in October and November of last year. That translates into 68.3 million turkeys slaughtered in those two months, assuming the birds were of average plumpness. If Americans really did eat about 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving last year, their turkey consumption on other days in October and November would have been about half the daily average the rest of the year.”

As for Thanksgiving being the busiest travel time of the year? Not true either, says Bialik. The number of commercial flights shows that Thanksgiving does not come close to being the busiest travel period:

“In fact, no day last November figured in the top 220 out of the 366 days in 2008, based on the number of flights reported by airlines to the Department of Transportation. While the recession cut into late autumn travel last year, November hasn’t had a day in the top 35 most-traveled in years, according to DOT figures, which track the daily number of flights, not passengers. Instead, most of the busiest days for U.S. airports hit during the summer, when school is out.”

To read more about these two myths and to find out the one title that Thanksgiving can actually claim, check out Bialik’s article – Claims of Thanksgiving Excess Fueled by Feast of Fuzzy Data.

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