(TURKEYS/ANIMAL FACTS) While many people only think of turkeys around the holidays, it turns out the beautiful birds are far more useful alive than they are on a Thanksgiving dinner plate. Read how the noble bird helps fight cancer, insects, and even heart disease for the other 364 days of the year. – Global Animal

turkey close up
Turkeys are actually very intelligent animals, despite popular belief. Photo Credit: AP

The Huffington Post, Joanna Zelman.

Ask almost any person in the US what a turkey contributes to society, and he will answer, “a yummy Thanksgiving meal.” But it turns out turkeys actually have added some amazing undervalued contributions to our society, none of which involve eating them. From cancer research to alternative energy sources, it’s time to be thankful for turkeys, beyond Thanksgiving.

GREEN (ISH) ENERGY

Benson, Minnesota runs a power plant using thousands of tons of turkey manure. They burn the turkey waste to produce electricity. The New York Times reports that Benson possesses the first animal waste-based power plant in the country. The plant is a hot topic among environmentalists, who debate the pollution levels produced by the plant.

KEEPING BIG BIRD G-RATED

If it weren’t for turkeys, Big Bird would be naked. That’s because Big Bird’s feathers come from turkeys, according to USA Today. The feathers are dyed two shades of yellow, and then sent to Sesame Workshop. The same feather company has reportedly produced feather boas for Uma Thurman, Sandra Bullock and… John Travolta.

CANCER RESEARCH

As if Turkeys didn’t have it bad enough with Thanksgiving, they are also one of the most susceptible animals to cancer, according to veterinary scientist Roger Coulombe. This may be a result of humans who domesticated turkeys, creating genetic mutations in the bird. Coulombe hopes to research “human susceptibility to cancer using the turkey.”

TICK CONTROL

Tired of picking ticks off your dog, or even yourself? Maybe it’s time to recruit a turkey. Reports claim that among the various insects that turkeys consume, ticks are hot on the list.

FERTILIZER

Not all poop is created equal. Turkey litter is regarded as one of the most valuable animal manures, according to The New York Times. Unlike cow and hog manures, turkey litter is mostly dry, and considered a rich organic product.

HEART DISEASE RESEARCH

Wild turkeys may help medical researchers. The wild animal reportedly possesses a heart mutation that decreases the incidence of heart disease and congestive heart failure. Researchers at Wayne State University School of Medicine hope that by studying turkey hearts, they can better understand heart disease in humans. Unfortunately, this kind of research normally involves the animal being dead first.

DIRTY DANCING

If not for the turkey, who knows if the once scandalous Turkey Trot dance would have ever existed. This face-to-face dance involves both dancers occasionally flapping and pumping their arms. In the early 20th century, groups tried to ban this awkward yet somehow promiscuous dance. According to Mental Floss, one woman was even jailed for 50 days for dancing like a turkey.

CELEBRITY GOOD CAUSE

Turkeys: The dumbest of them all. Benjamin Franklin called Thanksgiving’s main course an “animal of courage,” but a 1997 Oregon State University poll found turkeys to be the dumbest of all the animals. Still, plenty of people stick up for turkeys, with one OSU scientist insisting that the animal gets a bum rap. “It’s an example of how a misunderstood animal behavior becomes identified as proof that the animal is extremely lacking in intelligence,” said animal science professor Tom Savage. Think about that next Thanksgiving.

Some celebrities adopt babies, some may protect drunk elephants, and others save turkeys. Ellen DeGeneres and Ginnifer Goodwin are among many celebs who advocate saving turkeys instead of eating them this holiday season. These two work for the Adopt-A-Turkey Project, which fights to rescue turkeys and provide a “compassionate alternative for Thanksgiving.”

More Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/25/thanksgiving-2010-turkey-_n_788309.html#s191722

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