Thanksgiving has changed since the first celebration in 1621. Today, you don’t have to go hunting, grow or gather your food for your Thanksgiving meal. It is the role of the supply chain to bring your food directly to you.
In the 19th century, Sara Josepha Hale campaigned to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She was also the first person to release recipes for turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, which will become traditional Thanksgiving staples, as well as other dishes that will arrive on the table later.
To get these products on your table, we rely on their supply chains. Every supply chain has a starting point, which in our case is the farm. However, farms are located all over the US, as you can see in the map below depicting five of the main Thanksgiving products: turkeys (46 million needed for Thanksgiving1), pumpkin (50 million produced per year1), cranberry (80 million pounds needed for Thanksgiving1), potatoes (2.4 billion pounds produce per year2) and green beans (over 650 million tons produced per year1).
But unless you buy your products directly from the farm, this is just the beginning of the journey for these products. The next steps involve food manufacturers, co-packers, and distribution facilities to deliver them to the grocery store (almost 40,000 present in the US3) before finally arriving at the consumer’s house.
Although every step along the supply chain is important, even more important is the communication between them. Efficient communication enables sharing of product information (quality and commercial information) to ensure that the correct product goes to the right place and is safe to eat. This requires an efficient and coordinated supply chain to make sure the consumers get their products on time for Thanksgiving. And we should note that we have focused this speculative supply chain on suppliers only located in the US. The supply chain becomes even more complicated if the products are imported from outside of the US.
This coordination becomes even more important when we realize that your Thanksgiving meal will travel further than you to get to the dinner table. For Thanksgiving, the average American will travel 550 miles roundtrip4, whereas each ingredient will travel between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from the farm to the table5. So your entire Thanksgiving meal, if we take 8 ingredients, will travel about 16,000 miles!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving feast!
1 Thanksgiving supply chain by the number, Load Delivery. https://www.loaddelivered.com/articles/thanksgiving-supply-chain-by-the-numbers-infographic/
2 Thanksgiving statistics, Statistic Brain. http://www.statisticbrain.com/thanksgiving-statistics/
3 Supermarket Facts, FMI. http://www.fmi.org/research-resources/supermarket-facts
4 46-million Americans, the most in 7 years, to travel over Thanksgiving, Mary Forgione. http://www.latimes.com/travel/california/la-trb-thanksgiving-travel-google-tips-20141119-story.html
5 Globetrotting Food Will Travel Farther Than Ever This Thanksgiving, Worldwatch Institute. http://www.worldwatch.org/globetrotting-food-will-travel-farther-ever-thanksgiving