What’s the first thing you notice when you enter a Disney theme park, aside from that giant castle on Main Street. People walking around chewing on “Nice & Juicy” Jumbo sized turkey legs. Deemed one of the parks’ most popular snacks, there is lots of mystery surrounding these turkey legs. So let’s bite into 10 Facts About Disney’s Famous Turkey Legs.
10. Definitely Not Emu Legs
Before we get started, let’s debunk this myth. There is an urban legend that dates back to the early 90’s, right about the time that Disney’s giant turkey legs were becoming widely popular. The rumour was, that because of their large size, they were not in fact turkey legs at all, but emu legs. Some employees (either disgruntled or not) put it out there that they were in fact emu and the story stuck. Not helping in the situation, the rumor resurfaced in 2017, after actor Zachary Levi appeared on The Conan Show and confirmed that some friends, who worked at Disney told him the same story. Notice how they taste more like ham than turkey. Emu meat, tastes more gamey and is darker in color. Disney eventually came out with a statement debunking this claim. They said the reason the turkey legs were so big was because, the legs they used to make this popular snack, were actually made from male turkey’s called Tom’s. Male turkeys’ can reach up to 50 lbs. in size and their legs are considerably larger than female birds. These are not the typical birds we find on our table at Thanksgiving. The Disney corporation is extra careful to purchase only the largest ones, to keep up with standards. Disney has come out time and time again to dispel this urban myth, but people just seem to love a good story.
9. On Everyone’s Bucket List
So popular are the Turkey Legs at Disney that visitors have them on their bucket list of things to eat and do while visiting. Which is just one of the reasons why they sell so many of them! Compounded by the fact that numerous travel websites actually list it as a “must experience” while there. The Disney Turkey Legs have quite a die-hard following and you can’t go around knocking them, or Mickey might just give you the what for. It’s like they bring out our inner Fred Flintstone when gnawing on one of these oversized deliciously succulent turkey legs. These snacks debuted at Big Al’s Coonskin Caps in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom in the late 1980s. As they grew more popular, they migrated to the west coast to Disneyland in California. There is still a dedicated Turkey Leg Cart in Frontierland and others can be found in Liberty Market, Prince Eric Village Market in Fantasyland, and Yak & Yeti. As a snack or meal, they can also easily be shared because of their size. For those who want to relax, have a brewski, while munching on these monsters, your best bet is at Epcot at the Fife & Drum Tavern at the American Adventure Pavilion. Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park at Arctic Expeditions also sells them. A good source of protein, Disney Turkey Legs will help you get through a few hours of walking. So, jump on the bandwagon you don’t know what you’re missing till you try one.
8. Turkey Leg Sales are Astronomical
Tomorrowland is not the only thing that is astronomical at Disney! The sales of turkey legs are skyrocketing. Between Disneyland and Walt Disney World, not counting other International Theme parks worldwide, a 2016 census revealed that annual sales can reach 1.8 million. That’s a whopping 3.6 million lbs. of meat annually and sales increase and peak during Thanksgiving weekend. That makes for a whole lot of Turkey! Alongside, Mickey ice cream bars, which is another of the park’s best sellers, the turkey legs have remained a popular item since their inception. Food is not cheap at Disney. If you want to eat three quick meals a day the average cost is between $30 – $60 per day per person. Once you start to add in sit down dinners, snacks and bottled water, the cost goes through the sky. Disney is a great profit-making machine and has been since the 50’s. As for finding the Famous Jumbo Turkey Legs at Tomorrowland, you can find a Turkey Leg Cart located near the Rocket Tower Plaza Stage. It may take you to the moon and back, all depending on your taste buds.
7. He Ain’t Heavy He’s my Brother
These Turkey legs sure sound like a mouthful! But the size isn’t the most impressive thing about Disneyland turkey legs, the weight is too! Each drumstick weighs approximately 1.5 pounds. During Thanksgiving holidays, the average human consumes approximately 1.25 pounds per person – including leftovers. Disney’s turkey legs may look huge and plentiful, but the actual serving of meat isn’t too excessive. You can always share your portion with someone. Healthy or not? That is another issue! The legs are cured with a briny solution, which can make them very salty, but also very tasty and juicy. Calorie wise, they’re way more than a Big Mac, and come in close to a whopping 1000 calories each. We shall not go into the fat and salt content. Let’s just say that eating too many will definitely make you very fat or very sick. These days, everyone is turning to healthier eating options. Disney Theme Parks are no exception, they are working hard at changing their menus. They now offer a large variety of options and have incorporated more salads and vegan food. You may need to walk a few miles to burn off the calories after eating one of these Disney Turkey Legs. So, go ahead, there’s no harm in trying one, just don’t go trying to eat 10!
6. Tastes Like Ham
One of the reasons why the urban myth about emu surrounding the Jumbo Turkey Legs is so hard to shake is because they do tend to taste more like ham than turkey. The method to the madness, and that distinct taste is the secret ingredient. This iconic snack is actually a smoking sodium bomb. Firstly, Disney only purchases their big male turkey legs from Uncle John’s Pride. These 1.5 pound drumsticks are not only heavy but the meat is tough. To tenderize the dark meat and preserve them, they inject a salted curing brine that is pink in color, the same one used for corned beef. They are then cured for 24 hours or more, then smoked in a smoker for six hours. That is why they taste like ham and look pink in color. It is the same basic process as curing a ham. It makes the turkey legs very salty in taste, but this probably works to Disney’s advantage as they probably sell a lot more drinks because of this. Disney Turkey Legs have been featured on the front page of The New York Times and have spawned tons of copycat recipes on the internet. Here’s a tip, if you can make them at home, they can be even better and you can regulate the salt content.
5. Historical Value
Disneyland in California was the first Disney Theme Park to open. The whole idea came about because of Walt Disney’s desire for ‘a place where parents and children could both have fun at the same time’. It opened in 1955, and after a shaky start, it continued to grow and attract visitors from across the world. Disneyland even hosted a world’s fair in 1964. During this time, Walt Disney was also secretly scouting out new sites for a second Disney theme park in Florida. In 1971, Disney World‘s Magic Kingdom opened, but unfortunately Walt Disney never saw his dream come to fruition. He died in 1966, five years before the new park opened. It was not till 18 years later that the Jumbo turkey legs as we know them today debuted at Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom. Reminiscent of large caveman style dinosaur bones, they always seemed like relics of the past. The legs were first sold for somewhere around $9 bucks, today they sell for around $12 dollars. Not much of an increase in 30 years, but you will no longer be able to gnaw like velociraptors forever on the Jumbo Turkey Legs as eventually they may become a relic of the past.
4. Turkey Leg Merchandise
Leave it to the Disney Corporation to always bank on a good thing. One of the marketing gimmicks to further increase profits on one of their beloved food items, was to take the turkey leg to the next level with plenty of merchandising options. Aside from making a large profit selling actual Jumbo Turkey Legs and other concessionary food items, they have pushed the envelope further by not only plastering images of turkey legs and funny sayings about them all over the park, trying to incite your curiosity and taste buds. But as far back as 2010, Magic Kingdom boutiques and kiosks starting selling souvenirs like hats, pins, sweatshirts, and t- shirts printed with the slogan “Nice & Juicy”. They even sold air fresheners for the car. Not sure if the smell of freshly smoked turkey legs is a good idea for the car? But people bought them anyways – hopefully as a gag gift. It reminded them of the delicious scent that wafted through the park on their visit. Dole Whips and Mickey Bar scents may sound great. The pleasing aroma of freshly baked bread or the sweetness of a chocolate shop, but air fresheners featuring meaty treats seems a little excessive. The Rice Krispy treats shaped like the Jumbo Turkey legs dipped in chocolate are great. There is no doubt that the turkey legs are wildly popular and visitors seek them out. They have been a proverbial favorite for the last three decades. Long live the Disney Jumbo Turkey Legs.
3. Front page of the New York Times
You know you have made the big time when you hit the front page of the New York Times newspaper. In 2013, just about the time when the famous Disney Turkey legs were climbing in sales, an article appeared on the front page of the New York Times entitled “Turkey Legs Conquer Land of Mouse Ears” . The article revealed just how big the popularity of these Jumbo drumstick snacks had become. But not everyone is a big fan. People feel like it is more a rite of passage and a “must do” according to all the travel websites. As for liking them, that is subjective, sometimes they are dry and not what you’d expect at all. Disney’s die-hard turkey leg lovers beg to differ; they love everything about them. Executives at Disney worry that the craze promotes unhealthy eating. Their popularity is also blocking their efforts to improve overall food offerings. Some parents have resorted to bringing their own healthy foods. If this continues, it will not be long before sales will drop and the Disney Turkey Leg may be harder to find. Disney’s making changes by offering healthier food items and reducing salt in children’s meals. Yet, lovers of the Jumbo Turkey legs, have laid out their demands and “they don’t want to walk across the whole park to get one. When they want one, they want one now.
2. Turkey Legs Sold Elsewhere
We may know them as being a cult favorite at the Disney theme parks, but the giant turkey legs did not originate in the House Mickey built. Disney did trademark the name and increased their popularity with the 73 million visitors that pass through their gates annually. But Disney is far from the only purveyor of dinosaur sized turkey legs. Many fairs, carnivals and concession stands have sold them in the US for decades. They can definitely be found at the annual Texas State Fair, for as long as anyone can remember. Plenty of other county fairs have long counted them as a signature snack as well. Sea World, Universal Studios and Six Flags all sell turkey legs. In most US theme parks, where sold, they out sell any other snack by a long shot. Wether roasted or smoked, the smell is so intoxicating, it’s hard for anyone to resist wanting a bite. Popular since the medieval times, they are an easy snack – easy to hold and easy to eat with one hand. So it’s nice to know that no one has to wait until thanksgiving, these days you can get turkey legs just about anywhere.
1. A True Cult Classic
Jumbo Turkey Legs may be a fan favorite, but the truth is, that times have changed even at Disney, a place where no one every grows up. With the growing demand for healthier options, the Disney Turkey Leg is being replaced at some points of sale due to changing menus. With the constant changes it is sometimes hard to keep track of where they are being sold, sometimes sending patrons on a wild goose chase in search of turkey. However, the Jumbo Turkey Leg is the most iconic food at Disneyland and Disney World and many want to keep it that way. There are some pretty die-hard fans. The cult following is so deep rooted, that they would never let the famous turkey legs go down and become lost to history. Nonetheless, even with all the changes, there should always be a place where you can find the delicious turkey legs at Disney, because the demand is still strong and sometimes the fan’s voices do speak volumes. Eating at a Disney park is as much a prime attraction as the rides for many. But now might be the time to call on your inner caveman and grab yourself a Jumbo turkey Leg at Disney because just like the cavemen, they may also one day disappear.