GEORGETOWN — They didn't make the cut this year. They kept their heads while others around them lost theirs.
They are part of the ever-growing turkey population in Kentucky.
On the Saturday before Thanksgiving 2013, about 35 turkeys were still gobbling at Elmwood Stock Farm in Scott County. They either were too immature (physically) to adorn a holiday table, or they had been kept for breeding stock next spring.
About 165 of their less fortunate colleagues already were or will be distributed to hungry customers before Thursday.
Turkey is the main dish for most Americans on Thanksgiving, and Kentucky farms like Elmwood Stock Farm are doing their best to accommodate big appetites.
Becky Yarrison of Lexington picked up her 18½ -pound frozen, processed bird from Elmwood Stock's Mac and Ann Stone at Saturday morning's Farmers Market in downtown Lexington.
She said she paid between $60 and $65 for the turkey, and she promptly put it in her blue backpack to take home. She plans to cook and serve it, alongside other holiday delicacies, to eight family members on Thanksgiving.
Elmwood Stock Farm raised about 200 turkeys this year. The Stones said they hope to have more next year.
A growing number of farms in Kentucky are raising turkeys, said Jamie Guffey, executive director of the Kentucky Poultry Federation.
Though Kentucky is ranked seventh in the nation in the production of broilers — chickens bred and raised specifically for meat production — the Bluegrass State is ranked with "other states" in turkey production and is not singled out as being a large turkey producer, Guffey said.
Thirteen states account for nearly two-thirds of the 242 million turkeys produced this year in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The total is down about 5 percent from last year.
The largest turkey-producing state is Minnesota, with 45 million turkeys. Other big turkey-raising states are North Carolina at 35 million, Arkansas at 29 million, Indiana and Missouri at 17 million each, Virginia at 16 million, California at 13 million and South Carolina at 11.5 million.
The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service provides no estimate for turkey production in Kentucky.
But more farms in Kentucky are raising the creature that Benjamin Franklin wanted to be the national bird, Guffey said.
"We have more of what you call 'back-yard flocks,'" Guffey said.
Guffey noted that a new program initiated by state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer called "Homegrown by Heroes" might produce more back-yard turkey flocks.
The program is a marketing tool to allow veterans who are farmers to display the program logo on their goods and services.
Guffey said Kentucky now has only six turkey houses with large-scale production in the hundreds and thousands, but that number is expected to jump to 40 or so next year.
He said Farbest Farms, based in Jasper, Ind., is planning to build a 50-acre brooding hub in McLean County. Turkeys would be hatched and raised until they are 30 days old. They then would be sent to 10 family farms in Western Kentucky until they are 20 weeks old and ready for processing.
"With the increase of turkey production in the state, our overall poultry business, which now is about $950 million, will go over $1 billion next year," Guffey said.
The demand for turkey, which is low in fat and high in protein, is abundant, he added.
Turkey consumption in the United States has increased 108 percent since 1970, the National Turkey Federation says. About 88 percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving, it says. The average American will consume 16.4 pounds of turkey this year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Mac and Ann Stone of Elmwood Stock say they will eat turkey Sunday with their family at their annual holiday dinner.
Elmwood Stock Farm is owned and operated by a family that has been farming in the region for more than six generations. The Stones work with other family members on the 375-acre location, about a mile and a half east of Georgetown, to raise a variety of crops and livestock.
Mac Stone said he considers the turkey "a beautiful, extremely intelligent bird."
The other day on the farm, after he stepped carefully across the electric fencing that protects the turkeys, he said Benjamin Franklin was right: "They should have been the national bird."
But he immediately corrected himself.
"Well, maybe not," he said. "If they were the national bird, we couldn't eat them — and they are so good."