Jobs & Unemployment
From mashed potatoes to green bean casserole to the centerpiece turkey, many of the components of a traditional Thanksgiving menu originate from American farms.
Here’s the government data behind Thanksgiving dinner. Unless otherwise noted, all the data is from the US Department of Agriculture.
In 2019, farmers raised 229 million turkeys and produced 5.8 billion pounds of ready-to-cook turkey. That’s an average of 25 pounds of meat per bird. Last year, total turkey production was worth an estimated $4.3 billion.
Top states: Minnesota produced the most turkeys in 2019 at 40 million birds — or about 18% of the US total. North Carolina was second with 31 million, followed by Arkansas at 30 million.
Fun fact: Americans ate 16 pounds of turkey per person in 2019.
In 2019, the US produced 3.2 billion pounds of sweet potatoes. Farmers sold $588 million worth of sweet potatoes.
Top states: North Carolina leads the nation in sweet potato farming, producing 3.2 billion pounds or about 61% of the crop grown in the US. California growers produced 812 million pounds or 27% of US sweet potato production.
Fun fact: Domestic sweet potato consumption has grown significantly since 2000: annual per capita availability, a measure used as a proxy for consumption, increased from 4.2 pounds in 2000 to 7.9 pounds in 2019.
Last year, the US produced 7.9 million barrels of cranberries, down one million from the 2018 figure of 8.9 million barrels. Barrels can hold 100 pounds of cranberries.
Top states: This Thanksgiving mainstay is harvested from bogs covering 38,500 acres primarily in two states. In Wisconsin, farmers harvested 4.7 million barrels of cranberries in 2019, accounting for 59% of total production. Massachusetts farmers produced 2.2 million barrels of cranberries, accounting for 27% of all production.
Fun fact: The price of a barrel of cranberries dropped significantly in the last decade, down 54% from a high of $53.32 (adjusted to 2019 dollars) in 2012 to $28.70 in 2019.
In 2019, the US produced 42.4 billion pounds of potatoes. The value of all potatoes sold in 2019 was $3.94 billion, an 11% increase over 2018.
Top states: Synonymous with potatoes, Idaho leads the nation in production, responsible for 31% of the nation's output. Neighboring Washington is responsible for 25% of production.
Fun fact: Forty-one percent of potatoes were processed into frozen products, including french fries. About 27%, or 11.5 billion pounds of potatoes, remained as the fresh type that can be transformed into mashed potatoes.
In 2019, the US produced 1.7 billion pounds of snap beans. Nineteen percent of snap beans produced in the US are for fresh use, while the rest are processed by canning or freezing.
Top states: Wisconsin led all states in production in 2019 with 622 million pounds of snap beans. Four other states -- New York, North Carolina, Florida, and Maryland -- had production exceed 100 million pounds.
In terms of area harvested, snap beans were among the top three vegetables alongside sweet corn and tomatoes. In 2019, snap bean farms covered 189,700 acres. Sweet corn harvests covered 390,700 acres, while tomatoes covered 273,700 acres.
In 2019, US farmers produced 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins.
Top states: Production is dispersed throughout the US, with all states producing some pumpkins. In 2017, about 40% of pumpkin acres were harvested in the top six pumpkin-producing states by weight. Despite a reduction in acreage, Illinois remained the top pumpkin-producing state last year, harvesting nearly twice as many acres as any of the other top states (10,900 acres).
Fun fact: The majority of Illinois’ pumpkin crop is processed as pie filling or other processed pumpkin products. By contrast, less than 3% of the pumpkin crop in California and Virginia — two other leading pumpkin-producing states — is processed. This difference is largely explained by differences in types of pumpkins grown in Illinois versus other states. According to the USDA, pumpkin growers in other states are geared more toward growing pumpkins for seasonal reasons such as Halloween.
To learn more about the farmers producing this food, read this report on the 3.4 million agricultural workers in America.
Production data is often reported as hundredweight, abbreviated in cwt. This report converts that measurement when possible to pounds. There are 100 pounds in each hundredweight.