It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a turkey on the table, whether you like it stuffed, fried or grilled. Although we love turkey meat this time of year, most Americans would never consider eating turkey eggs. They can't be so different from regular old chicken eggs, so why don't we eat them?
These fowl's eggs look like large chicken eggs, but with yellow or brown speckles. In the past, they were considered a delicacy by pre-Columbian Americans. Wild turkeys used to roam North America, and archaeologists have found turkey-egg shells at Native American encampments. Then, when the Europeans came over, they brought domesticated turkeys, frequently enjoying their eggs until the 20th century.
In fact, 19th century chefs believed that these eggs made better sauces and baked goods than those of other birds like quail eggs, duck eggs, goose eggs, ostrich eggs, and chicken eggs. However, there was also negativity surrounding these fowl's eggs, and they were mistakenly blamed for the disease leprosy.
So Why Don't We Eat Them?
As it turns out, it comes down to price. Chicken eggs are our go-to because chickens lay so many eggs, almost one a day. On the other hand, turkeys lay eggs just twice a week. So, in one month, a chicken will lay 30 eggs and a turkey will lay 8. Plus, chickens begin egg-laying at 5 months old, but turkeys don't begin hatching until a few months later.
Along with this, the cost of production of turkeys is higher, as turkeys are more high maintenance than chickens, needing more space and food. Chicken hens typically live in under 50 square inches of space, while turkey hens receive over 3 square feet. Because of the difference in egg production and needs, chickens eggs are far cheaper than those of turkeys.
In the grocery store, a dozen chicken eggs costs about $1.61, although free-range eggs are about twice as much. Since turkey eggs are less popular, the USDA doesn't have regulation on them or an approximate price, but most producers sell them for $2 to $3 an egg, or $24 to $36 for a carton.
Because of these factors, it doesn't make much sense for the modern farmer to raise turkeys for eggs, as most consumers aren't willing to pay this much. However, we're happy to eat turkey meat for Thanksgiving!