Is lobster the new turkey for Thanksgiving?
Cornish hens and Tofurkey also vie as holiday dishes.
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Mr. Tibbott tried a gluten roast – which diners "couldn't cut with a chain saw," he recalls – and a stuffed pumpkin without enough heft for a main dish. Finally, his company birthed the tofu-based turkey substitute Tofurkey.Skip to next paragraph
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Even in turkey's long shadow, it worked. After selling 500 of them that first year – 1995 – sales have soared. This year, Tibbott's Turtle Island Foods in Hood River, Ore., expects to clear 300,000 Tofurkeys between October and December. Tofurkey now stands as a major player in the meat-alternative industry, whose sales – not counting leaders like national chain Whole Foods, which doesn't provide any data – exceeded $586 million during the past 12 months and grew by 8 percent compared with the year before.
Real meat is another potential competitor. Retailers have long promoted prime rib and boneless roasts over the holidays, says Meghan Pusey of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. In recent years, the association has tried to help stores see the value in cheaper cuts. This year, more roasts from the chuck and round are on the shelves.
The number of stores featuring Cornish game hens reached 4,300 this week – a record in the four years that the US Department of Agriculture has been tracking the trend.
Another boost for the nonturkey crowd: Immigrants, notably the growing number of Asians, often substitute native dishes for turkey as families gather on Thanksgiving.
Lobster, sliced beef, and lamb are currently among the biggest sellers at CMart, an ethnic supermarket in Boston.
"We don't even have turkey," says Alvin Qu, a CMart employee. "Chinese people don't buy turkey. They don't know how to cook it."
Restaurants represent another arena for antiturkey diners to vote with their menu selections. Some 11 percent of Americans now eat out on Thanksgiving day, according to the National Restaurant Association.
When they come to upscale Café Adelaide in New Orleans, about half the patrons order the venue's jazzy Southern take on turkey, stuffed with herb butter and truffle oil, says Orlando Harris, a sous chef. Those who don't typically seek something else, maybe quail or goose, accompanied by ray beans and ricotta greens, or stuffed flounder.
Yet even away from the classic family feast, "Turkey's still the winner," Mr. Harris says.