If you are planning to eat turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas, you are not alone. Most Americans, who reportedly dream of a white Christmas, also relish a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving - with all the trimmings.

This year, Americans will eat nearly 250 million turkeys or an estimated per-capita consumption of 17.5 pounds.The bird is big business in Utah. The state's turkey growers raised 90 million pounds of turkey last year, for a total value of $38 million, which represents 9.2 percent of Utah's cash commodity receipts.

Norbest, which has its headquarters in Salt Lake City, is the world's largest turkey-marketing cooperative and the nation's fifth-largest turkey producer.

Turkey production in Utah is primarily located in Sanpete and Sevier counties and is centered around hatcheries in Moroni and Richfield. The average Utah turkey farmer raises 45,000 birds.

Two decades ago, nearly 70 percent of the nation's turkeys were consumed during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons.

But advertising and new turkey products have helped promote eating turkey all year and, this year, only about 40 percent of the nation's gobbler output will be eaten during the holidays.

In the United States, the top turkey-growing states are North Carolina, Minnesota, California and Arkansas. Utah ranks 12th nationwide. Californians are the biggest turkey eaters. Residents there eat three pounds more turkey than the average American consumer.

But the Israelis take the trophy for eating the most turkey in the world.

The average Israeli eats more than 28 pounds of turkey each year, probably because red meat production is limited in Israel and the price of red meat is high.

Turkey growers say this has been an exceptionally good year for the entire turkey industry and retail stores should have plenty of turkeys on hand and in sizes to meet every holiday need.

The smallest turkeys, fryer roasters, range from 5 to 9 pounds and the largest birds available weigh more than 40 pounds.

The largest commercial turkey grown, records show, was one raised in 1967 that weighed 75 pounds, but you probably won't ever see one that big in a supermarket unless it is pushing a shopping cart.

According to Utah State University home economists, the safest way to thaw a turkey is to put it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. USU food and nutrition specialist Georgia Lauritzen said the next best way to thaw your bird is to run cool, but never hot or even warm, water over it.

"It is best not to stuff your turkey the night before cooking it. When it comes time to cook your turkey, make sure both the bird and stuffing are completely cooked before serving.

"A well-done turkey should reach 160-170 degrees in the deepest part of the breast and in the joint between the thigh and the body cavity."

Scientists say the turkey is a variety of pheasant. In its wild state it can not only fly for short distances but can sometimes beat a race horse in a short sprint. Only tom turkeys gobble. Hens make a clicking noise.

Ben Franklin wanted our national bird to be the turkey, but the bald eagle won.

When did Thanksgiving start? President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863, in response to a suggestion by woman magazine editor Sara Josepha Hale - who wrote, among others things, "Mary Had a Little Lamb."