How Many Bones Are in a Turkey? A Deep Dive into the Anatomy of a Thanksgiving Feast

The humble turkey a centerpiece of many Thanksgiving tables, is a fascinating creature with a complex and surprisingly flexible skeletal structure. While we may only think of the drumsticks and breast meat when it comes to our Thanksgiving meal there’s a lot more to this bird’s anatomy than meets the eye.

So, how many bones are actually in a turkey? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think

Counting the Bones: A Journey Through the Turkey Skeleton

Adult turkeys typically have between 170 and 190 bones, depending on the individual bird and how you count them This number includes the bones in the head, neck, wings, legs, feet, and tail.

However, there’s some debate about the exact number of bones in a turkey due to the presence of sesamoid bones. These are small, embedded bones that are found within tendons and muscles. Some researchers include sesamoid bones in their counts, while others do not.

Exploring the Turkey Skeleton: A Virtual Dissection

To understand the complexity of the turkey skeleton, let’s take a virtual journey through its different parts:

Head: The turkey’s head houses a surprisingly intricate skull with over 30 bones, including the beak, jaw, and eye sockets.

Neck: The turkey’s neck is made up of 14 vertebrae, allowing for incredible flexibility and range of motion.

Wings: Each wing has 15 bones, including the humerus, radius, ulna, and various smaller bones in the hand and fingers.

Legs: The turkey’s legs are powerful and sturdy, with 14 bones in each leg, including the femur, tibia, fibula, and various smaller bones in the foot and toes.

Tail: The turkey’s tail is a relatively simple structure with 5-6 vertebrae.

Understanding the Turkey Skeleton: Beyond the Thanksgiving Plate

The turkey skeleton is not just a fascinating biological structure; it also plays a crucial role in the bird’s ability to survive and thrive in the wild.

The strong legs allow turkeys to run quickly and escape predators. The flexible neck helps them forage for food and keep an eye on their surroundings. The sturdy wings, while not used for sustained flight, are crucial for balance and short bursts of lift.

Beyond the Bones: The Turkey’s Skeletal Adaptations

The turkey’s skeleton has evolved over millions of years to meet the specific needs of its lifestyle.

For example, the hollow bones in the wings and legs help reduce weight without sacrificing strength. The fused collarbones (wishbone) provide additional stability for flight. And the presence of air sacs within the bones helps regulate body temperature.

The next time you sit down to a Thanksgiving feast, take a moment to appreciate the incredible anatomy of the turkey. This remarkable bird has a complex and fascinating skeleton that allows it to thrive in the wild and provides us with a delicious and nutritious meal. So raise a glass (or a drumstick) to the turkey, a creature whose bones are as fascinating as its flavor.

Step 1: Removing the leg and thigh

Coming in next to the breast you will take your knife and slice straight down. Your knife will soon hit the ball socket joint that attaches the thigh bone to the pelvic bone. You simply need to apply pressure to the thigh once your knife reaches this location for the ball to come out of the socket. Once this happens, just take your knife and cut straight down. This will remove the whole leg and thigh off in one beautiful piece.

Turkey Leg and Thigh Recipes

Here are three simple steps to get more from your turkey harvests this year. Below you’ll see step-by-step instructions with pictures to detail how to break down a turkey leg. Give it a try and remember what I always say, “You can’t screw up, it’s just another meatball. ” Meaning, even if you hack at the meat, it’s still gunna get eaten.

Boneless Whole Turkey for Thanksgiving – How to Bone, Stuff, & Roast a Whole Turkey


How much bone is in a turkey?

You can assume about 40% to 50% of every turkey is bone or parts that won’t be eaten. That means for every pound of turkey, guests will get about eight to nine ounces of meat.

How many bones are in a turkey leg?

Turn the leg over and finish the cut between the two bones that make up the knee joint, the fibula, and the femur. At this point, you will now have separated the thighs from the legs. Need wild game meat for a recipe you’ve been wanting to try? Check out GameKeeper Butchery.

How many bones are in a turkey’s neck?

A turkey neck is basically one long bone with a lot of meat on it, not a bunch of little bones.

How much meat is in a whole turkey?

(A 21.5 pound turkey yields about 8+ pounds cooked meat.) Now 1/3 pound makes a good sized burger, and typically we don’t also eat 6 side dishes with it and have pie waiting in the wings.

What size Turkey should I buy?

The number of guests is the very first start to determine what size turkey to buy. Most turkey portion serving sizing charts are based using a bone-in turkey. A chart might say 1 to 1.5 pounds of purchased turkey per person, so an 8-pound turkey is allegedly perfect for 6-8 people. I say NO! Initially, the bone removes some of that weight.

How many people can a 8 pound turkey serve?

Most turkey portion serving sizing charts are based using a bone-in turkey. A chart might say 1 to 1.5 pounds of purchased turkey per person, so an 8-pound turkey is allegedly perfect for 6-8 people. I say NO! Initially, the bone removes some of that weight. Secondly, the weight becomes further reduced during cooking.

How many people can a boneless Turkey Crown feed?

As with the other meats, you want to allow 6-8oz of meat per meal, and 10-12oz of meat if you want leftovers. An easy way to think about the boneless crown is that it will feed 2 people for the weight in lbs that you have bought. A 5lb boneless turkey crown will comfortably feed 10 people ( 6-8 with leftovers!).

How much cooked turkey meat does a 15 pound turkey eat?

So, you can expect approximately 9.75 pounds of cooked turkey meat from your 15-pound raw turkey. FAQs? Q1. Can I adjust the yield percentage based on my preferences?

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