For most of the year, there’s not much point in trying to guess what everyone will be eating in any particular household. There will be countless combinations, and many people aren’t too fussed whether it’s stir fry or pasta bake on the menu that night. But there are some days when there is only one option.
90 Native Americans and 54 Settlers broke bread on Thanksgiving in 1621, but now over 250 million Americans enjoy the same meal on one day in November. It’s Thanksgiving in a few days, and Americans everywhere will be looking forward to a nice turkey dinner on Thursday afternoon. 91% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving – that’s a lot of birds (46 million turkeys, to be precise). This is a tradition that has been going strong for hundreds of years, and I’ll be surprised if it changes at all in the hundreds of years to come. Tradition is a wonderful thing – there’s something comforting knowing exactly who you’ll be spending this day with and how you’ll be spending it. But let’s think about this logistically – how on earth are we supposed to get the same meal to 250 million plates for the same day? Dealing with the massive peak in demand for turkey is no easy task.
It’s not just the delivery of turkey to the table that presents a challenge. The side dishes require a lot of logistical astuteness as well. In the U.S., 2.7 billion pounds of sweet potatoes are produced every year. Illinois, California, New York, and Ohio grow the most U.S. pumpkins – the value of all pumpkins produced in the U.S. in 2011 was $113 million! And, every Thanksgiving, cranberry fans across Wisconsin create the demand for 450 million pounds of cranberries. That’s the demand in one state – I wonder how many cranberries are eaten by all 52 states? With so many different types of food being bulk-produced around Thanksgiving in America, the supply chain needs to be rock-solid to ensure hundreds of millions of people can stick to their tradition.
Unlike the Native Americans and Pilgrim Fathers, today’s celebrations don’t involve hunting, killing and plucking birds – something that I’m sure everyone is pleased about! The whole dinner arrives on their plates through an elaborate supply chain network. All of the ingredients on that familiar dish go from the farm, to the distribution centre, to the food shops and supermarkets and finally to the millions of tables across America – and the rest of the world. Thanksgiving is celebrated by people in lots of countries, after all!
Luckily we’ve got the mature technology at our fingertips that allows us to get all of these turkeys to the plate. Levels of demand like the ones I’ve mentioned require automation from systems we can trust – planning and logistics decision-making software needs to be sophisticated and reliable to cope with delivering 46 million turkeys every November. Let’s give thanks for the fact that although our traditions don’t change, our technology continues to evolve with the times.
Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you enjoy these festive facts while you’re waiting for your turkey to make its way down the supply chain to your plate!