Small birds are having a big moment.
Tiny turkeys will increasingly grace Thanksgiving tables this week, thanks to the millennial generation’s ongoing campaign to remake American gastronomy. The holiday depicted by Norman Rockwell — Grandma showing off a cooked bird so plump it weighs down a banquet plate — is still common. But smaller families, growing guilt over wasteful leftovers and a preference for free-range fowl have all played roles in the emergence of petite poultry as a holiday dinner centerpiece.
“People are starting to understand it’s not natural to grow turkeys up to 30 pounds,” said Ariane Daguin, co-founder and owner of D’Artagnan, a wholesale and e-commerce food company in Union, New Jersey. “In general, that means they were penned up with no room to move around, and that’s why they’re fat like that.”
There are signs that wee birds are in greater demand. Inventories of whole hens, which are smaller than males, are down 8.3 percent from a year ago, the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. Whole toms, the males, are up 6.9 percent.
Don’t call them capons. They’re not castrated chickens. Nor are they chicks. They’re not babies. They’re just turkeys that weigh in the neighborhood of 6 pounds.
Bell & Evans is working with a breeder to make tiny turkeys that consumers will eat all year. Owner Scott Sechler said the new breed, which isn’t yet sold publicly, “fills out nicely,” unlike other undersized birds, which can be bony.
Still, 12- to 14-pound turkeys remain the biggest holiday seller, Sechler said. That may be because some millennials are “still going to Mom’s,” he said.
Even Butterball, which sells 30-plus-pound heavyweights, also offers a Li’l Butterball that can be as small as six pounds.
HelloFresh SE, in its first Thanksgiving box this year, is selling 12- to 14-pound turkeys from Cargill Inc. designed to serve 10 people who’ve filled up on appetizers. And while Amazon.com Inc.’s Whole Foods said its most popular sizes are a classic 14 to 18 pounds, it also has a smaller version to feed four non-vegan customers.
Smaller families are fueling the trend. Last year, 62 percent of American households had just one or two people, compared with 41 percent in 1960, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The proportion of single-person homes has risen, too.
Karen Bell, owner of Bavette La Boucherie butcher shop in Milwaukee, said she sold half her tiny-turkey supply by Halloween. The organic birds are as little as 6 pounds, Bell said, because customers want less meat.
“Family sizes are smaller,” she said. “Celebrating Thanksgiving isn’t like 20-people extended families.”
Families are also more spread out than they used to be, an additional reason cooks are considering alternatives such as turkey breasts, which can be just a few pounds, or roasted chicken. Honey Baked Ham Co. has a 2.5-pound baked turkey breast for $34.95. D’Artagnan sells a six-pound capon for $80 to feed five to six people.
“The whole bird is not necessarily on everyone’s Thanksgiving table the way it used to be,” said Russ Whitman, a senior vice president at commodity researcher Urner-Barry.
With smaller birds, there’s less chance of tossing uneaten meat. Each year, about 200 million pounds of turkey is trashed during Thanksgiving week, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Food waste is becoming an increasingly concerning issue,” said Michael Averbook, a food and drink analyst at Mintel Group. “Leftovers are part of the fun and tradition of the holidays, and this may be a small step for individuals to feel less wasteful and socially responsible.”
Meanwhile, home cooks are getting more adventurous with quail — or even squab (young pigeon), a teeny, single-serve bird that makes for a nice Instagram post. Others would rather stick to tradition but just don’t like the taste of poultry. For them, there’s the prospect of tiny deer.
“The first Thanksgiving had plenty of turkey but also venison on the table,” Daguin said. “It’s a traditional meat.”
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The Durham Museum will host its cherished tradition, Christmas at Union Station, starting Friday and going through Dec. 23. Friday’s event will go from 4-8 p.m. and will include the tree lighting ceremony at approximately 7 p.m. The day's event will also include cookie decorating, holiday crafts, live music and a special visit from Santa Claus. The "Holiday Cultural Trees Exhibit" will also open Friday at The Durham Museum. More.
Village Pointe Shopping Center, 17305 Davenport St., will host complimentary horse and carriage rides throughout the center Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. — weather permitting. Carriages rides will also take place Dec. 1, 8 and 15. More.
Come to Midtown Crossing, located at 32nd and Farnam Streets, to check out a collection of 20 window displays created by local nonprofits, students and individual artists, and vote for your favorite. The displays will be available daily for viewing through Jan. 1. More.
Families are invited to Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s to visit the Christmas village. There will be free photos with Santa, as well as free family holiday activities, including crafts and games. Santa’s Wonderland will be open through Dec. 24. Free photos with Santa are available from 5 to 8 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Bass Pro Shops is at 2901 Bass Pro Drive in Council Bluffs, and Cabela’s is at 12703 Westport Parkway in La Vista.
Come to Elmwood, Nebraska — located about 45 minutes southwest of Omaha — Saturday for a full day of fun for the whole family. The day will begin with a pancake feed at 7 a.m. and will continue with craft fairs, shopping, Santa, historical tours, balloon artists, a princess and superhero meet-and-greet, a live nativity, a parade, soup dinner and more.
Aksarben Village, near 67th and Center Streets, will host its holiday event Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. The event will include the tree lighting ceremony, a heated tent, free horse and carriage rides, live music, face painting and free food and drink from Dudley’s Pizza & Tavern. There will also be appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus. The event will also take place Nov. 30 and Dec. 7 and 14. More.
“A Christmas Carol” is the holiday tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his life-changing journey. The show runs until Dec. 23 at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Children ages 3 and younger are not allowed. Tickets start at $40. To see the schedule, click here.
Come to the Tangier Shrine Center, 2823 S. 84th St., through Nov. 24 to view nearly 70 Christmas trees. Those who attend can be entered to win one of the trees — and all the gifts associated with it — on display. The event will also include homemade food from the Snowflake Café. Tickets are $2 per person, and kids 12 and younger are free. Raffle tickets are $1 each. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Week day hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. The festival will be closed for Thanksgiving, but will reopen Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. More.
Families are invited to Regency Court, 120 Regency Parkway, Friday from noon to 2 p.m. Kids can meet the Gingerbread boy and girl in the Center Court from noon to 1 p.m., and the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who from 1 to 2 p.m. Santa will be available from noon to 8 p.m. as well. More.
On Saturday, kids are welcome to build an easel with a whiteboard for free at one of several Home Depot stores from 9 a.m. to noon. Once the project is complete, kids can paint their project to personalize it. All kids get to keep their project and will receive a free certificate of achievement, a workshop apron and a commemorative pin, while supplies last. The workshop is for kids ages 5 to 12. More.
The Mormon Trail Center, 3215 State St., will house the annual gingerbread house display through Dec. 31. Additionally, the Kanesville Tabernacle, 222 East Broadway in Council Bluffs, is hosting a gingerbread house display through Dec. 31. This year’s theme for both displays is "Family (A Glimpse of Heaven)." Both displays are free to attend and are open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Both exhibits close at 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and are closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. More.
On Thanksgiving Day, come to the Gene Leahy Mall at 14th and Farnam Streets to take part in the Holiday Lights Festival’s opening ceremonies. Musical Kids will give a performance at 5:40 p.m. At 6 p.m., Mayor Jean Stothert will lead the crowd in a countdown to the lighting display. After the lighting, check out a special performance by Jingle Bell Brass. The Making Spirits Bright Holiday Concert will follow at 7 p.m. at the Holland Performing Arts Center. The concert is free. More.
Thousands of colorful poinsettias are on display at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors can walk the garden and enjoy the holiday colors as they view model-garden trains and a poinsettia tree. The poinsettias will be on display through Jan. 6. More.
Santa will begin his route around La Vista at 3 p.m. on Sunday, leaving from the Santa’s Workshop parking lot. He will be west of 84th Street from 3 to 5 p.m., and east of 84th Street from 5 to 7 p.m. Santa will stop at each location for five minutes. Click here to view the route.
The Omaha Children's Museum, located at 500 S. 20th St., will open a special holiday exhibit called Santa's Magic Friday. Santa will arrive with the Omaha Fire Department at 10 a.m. in front of the museum, and the first Santa’s Magic interactive show will take place at 10:30 a.m. The show will feature the Snow Queen and King and Santa Claus. The exhibit will run Tuesday through Friday at various times throughout the day. To see the full schedule, click here. Santa's Magic will run through Dec. 23.
Downtown Papillion will host a Winter Wonderland Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. The evening will include carriage rides, a bonfire, visits with Santa, popcorn, hot chocolate, a parade, photos with live reindeer and more.
The city of Ralston will host its annual Holiday Magic event Sunday beginning at 3 p.m. Santa will make his grand entrance on a fire truck and will make his way through the downtown area from 3:15 to 4 p.m. He will then visit with children until 6 p.m. in the downtown gazebo. Cookies, hot chocolate and candy canes will be handed out as well, and free carriage rides will be available. More.
The Ralston Arena offers public ice skating for $5, with free ice skate rental. The Motto McLean Ice Arena inside Hitchcock Park near 45th and Q Streets offers Family Skate time Sunday from 4 to 6:15 p.m.
Several area organizations host craft time for children every weekend. Kids can create a free craft Saturday at Lakeshore Learning Store from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Finally, kids 3 and older can make paper flowers for mom Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon with the Michaels Kids Club. Sign up online or drop in. The cost ranges from $2 to $5 per project, supplies included.
Community centers offer something for every member of your family — from infants to senior citizens. For a full list of community centers, click here.
The Omaha, Bellevue and Council Bluffs Public Libraries are currently offering free day passes to Fontenelle Forest. Each pass admits two adults and children from their household. More information can be found at each library.
Are your kids animal lovers? If so, there are several ways they can help the animals at the Nebraska Humane Society, including reading to them during adoption hours. Check out more fun ways here.
There are tons of organizations that host weekday and weekend storytimes.
Friends from the National Federation of the Blind Nebraska – Omaha chapter will be guest storytellers at the Swanson Library, 9101 West Dodge Road on Saturday from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Come experience the delight of stories in various ways, including braille. More. Come to the Florence Library, 2920 Bondesson St., Saturday at 10:30 a.m. for a “Happy Un-Birthday Storytime Party.” Enjoy birthday stories, treats and play games. More. Other storytimes include Barnes and Noble (Oak View and Crossroads), Pottery Barn Kids, Leader Reader at the Omaha Children's Museum, the Omaha Public Library branches, the Gretna Public Library, the Bellevue Public Library, the La Vista Public Library, the Sump Memorial Library in Papillion, the Baright Public Library in Ralston and the Plattsmouth Public Library.
Do Space, Omaha's community tech space, is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Plus it's free. Check out five things to do at Do Space here.
Take an afternoon to go roller skating with your kids. You can laugh at each other while you fall down again and again. Check out Skate City, 1220 S. Fort Crook Road in Bellevue.
The Omaha metro area has several indoor play areas for families to enjoy. They include Pump It Up, Backyard Playworld and BounceU in Omaha, and Jumpin Jax in Papillion. Oak View Mall and Westroads Mall also have fun indoor play areas. Check out Approach Climbing Gym at 4923 S. 72nd St. It offers day passes, instructional classes, youth programs and more. Several local gymnastic places also have open gym time, including Metro Stars Gymnastics, Premier Gymnastics, Airborne Academy, Go! Kids Gym and Kid's Body Shop. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, 28500 W. Park Highway in Ashland, Nebraska, features an on-site indoor activity center.
The Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum has a new exhibit: "Game On: The History and Science of Gaming." The interactive exhibit highlights the evolution of gaming technology and animation and includes interactive displays that span a 2,500-square-foot exhibit gallery. Guests can build their own game. The exhibit also includes giant video games, arcade games, animation stations and an 8-foot LED Pixel play illumination station. The exhibit is open through Sunday. More.
We put together a list of must-see spots across the state. How many of these destinations can you cross off your Cornhusker bucket list?