How many turkeys are there in the United States? No, not that big frozen blob of white meat masquerading as real bird you'd find at the grocery store. I mean real turkeys.
Not many, it turns out. A survey in 1997 showed that there were only 1,300 turkeys - in the entire country - not bred for the food/avian industrial complex we know as Thanksgiving.
But thankfully, turkey (again, the real variety) is making a comeback. Claire Thompson wrote an interesting article over at Grist:
... if you’re not old enough to remember a time before the Broad Breasted White, you may be surprised that the ALBC’s website calls turkeys “the quintessential American bird.” Indeed, Benjamin Franklin wanted to designate the turkey—indigenous to North and South America—as our national symbol instead of the eagle. And for hundreds of years “turkeys were barnyard staples” in the U.S., says Vaughn. “They’re an easy, abundant source of meat, resilient and self-reliant. It was a no-brainer to have [them] around.”
Fast forward to today, when “they have literally bred all of the turkey out of the turkey,” says Will Harris, owner of White Oak Pastures, the largest USDA-certified organic farm in the state of Georgia. Harris raises American Standard Bronze turkeys, one of eight varieties identified by the ALBC as heritage breed turkeys—or birds descended from a continuous gene pool dating back to before the rise of the Broad Breasted White. Heritage birds can still mate naturally, and have a long outdoor lifespan and slow growth rate. Industrial turkeys, on the other hand, said Harris, “are satisfied to sit in one place and eat and defecate.”