According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, inventories of whole turkey hens, the smaller of the species, are down 8.3 percent from last year, while toms are up 6.9 percent, which Bloomberg says is a sign that customers are demanding downsized birds. In response to this trend, even companies like Butterball have begun to sell 6-pound birds. But we're not quite in miniature territory just yet: Whole Foods still says its most popular size of turkey is on the larger side (14-18 lbs.), and Bell and Evans' biggest seller is the 12- to 14-pound turkey.
There are a few reasons for this shrink: First, as people become more informed about industrial farming, they're a little turned off by the practices (antibiotics, caging, etc.) necessary to produce a 30-lb turkey. Second, they're not celebrating the holidays with groups as large as they once were. Bloomberg guesses that this is because families are smaller, but we think the other issue is that families are spread out, and traveling for Thanksgiving has become an expensive, hellish journey.
The third reason sounds almost too altruistic to be a trend: People are aware of the food waste problem, especially the fact that Americans throw away 200 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving Week, per the National Resources Defense Council. More likely, enough home cooks have realized that it's easier to make a smaller, free-range turkey taste good, and no one wants to work for hours on something that's too big, winds up with dry white meat, and then takes up the fridge for the rest of the week, making you feel guilty about eating anything else.
Once they figure that out, some Thanksgiving hosts are even replacing turkeys with birds like quail and squab. Now, if we're talking millennial stereotypes, it does seem much more impressive to Instagram a tablescape around a cute little roasted pigeon than the same old turkey your grandma made.