The Open Data Map of Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s that time of the year! It’s the annual celebration of a time of peace between Native Americans and European settlers, that time for feasting on turkeys and other delicacies: Thanksgiving! On the other side of the Atlantic over in France, we here at OpenDataSoft are not so familiar with this holiday. However, we do know one thing: Americans will eat a lot. For such a large country, we asked ourselves, where does all of the food come from for so many feasts on this one special day?

It just so happens that we used Open Data to answer this question!

Finding Data on Where Thanksgiving Dinner Comes From

For a country as large as the United States, we were not surprised to learn about all of the regional variations to a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. Thus, after consulting some American friends and the Internet, we decided to narrow down our search for data to the following five elements of a Thanksgiving Dinner:

  • Turkey: overwhelmingly the staple of a Thanksgiving Dinner;
  • Potatoes: we learned that mashed potatoes are quite popular;
  • Green beans: we never knew there were so many variations of a green bean casserole;
  • Cranberries: our team can’t wait to try this sugary sauce that apparently goes so well with turkey;
  • Pumpkins: pumpkin pie, after all, is the most popular Thanksgiving dessert.

Using the National Agricultural Statistics Service database, we were able to produce datasets on the top-producing states, measured in dollars, for each food in 2014. We downloaded the spreadsheets that the NASS database generated, and in a few clicks, had them uploaded and cleaned on the OpenDataSoft turnkey platform.

These data were really helpful in showing us how much food is produced in different states in the US. For example, Minnesota produces $866,161,000 dollars of turkey. In 2014, the average price for a pound of turkey was $1.35. This means that about 640 million pounds of turkey are produced in Minnesota alone over the course of one year!

With the average weight of a turkey for a Thanksgiving Dinner weighing in at 16lbs, the data showed us that over 40 million turkeys are raised each year in Minnesota. While these data are astonishing, it’s not enough turkeys for Thanksgiving Dinner alone – roughly 46 million turkeys are consumed!

Enriching Thanksgiving Dinner Data with Geographic Coordinates

The sheer numbers the data revealed about Thanksgiving Dinner astonished us. However, we wanted to go a step further in our quest to discover where a Thanksgiving Dinner comes from by mapping these data. With our Code for America Brigades Open Data Portals and our friends in Durham, we have a pretty good idea of American geography. A map would allow us simply to better visualize all of this production.

Join Dataset Processor

ODS Fields Manipulation Processors

In order to associate production of potatoes or cranberries with a particular state, we only had to apply one processor. This required joining a shapefile dataset available on the OpenDataSoft public domain, allowing us to associate geographic coordinates to each state and their production quantities.

Mapping our Thanksgiving Dinner Data

With geographic units finally added to the datasets, it was time to put all the data together onto the same map to paint a full picture of where a Thanksgiving Dinner comes from.

And so, we used our Cartograph tool. The Cartograph allows our users to layer multiple sources of open data on one map in a matter of minutes (click on the bracket in the top-right corner to display filters).

In a few clicks, we added and saved all five datasets on one map, associated colors with each food, and adjusted the shading of each color, based on the value of production of that food. For example, Minnesota has the darkest shade of brown for all of the turkey-producing states because it produces the most turkey.

This map is not only colorful: it is also interactive! We can sort through the Thanksgiving Dinner data to show only production of potatoes, for example. Not only that, if we want specific numbers, all we have to do is click directly on a state.

No Thanksgiving without… California!

California contributes the most to a typical Thanksgiving Dinner, according to the data. It produces all but one of the five parts of a Thanksgiving Dinner (no Cranberries); only Michigan can make the same claim, but California is able to grow and raise more of everything.

This is just a brief example of how easy it is to make your data speak louder and more clearly with the OpenDataSoft SaaS solution. Within a few clicks, we have published datasets with APIs that can be effortlessly turned into all kinds of visualizations.

To all of you Americans out there, we wish a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!



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