Turkeys

Please read this: About a Turkey:

“It probably hatched in an incubator on a huge farm, most likely in the Midwest or the South. Its life went downhill from there. A few days after hatching — in the first of many unnatural if not necessarily painful indignities — it had its upper beak and toenails snipped off. A turkey is normally a very discriminating eater (left to its own devices, it will search out the exact food it wants to eat). In order to fatten it up quickly, farmers clip the beak, transforming it into a kind of shovel. With its altered beak, it can no longer pick and choose what it will eat. Instead, it will do nothing but gorge on the highly fortified corn-based mash that it is offered, even though that is far removed from the varied diet of insects, grass and seeds turkeys prefer. And the toenails? They’re removed so that they won’t do harm later on: in the crowded conditions of industrial production, mature turkeys are prone to picking at the feathers of their neighbors — and even cannibalizing them.

After their beaks are clipped, mass- produced turkeys spend the first three weeks of their lives confined with hundreds of other birds in what is known as a brooder, a heated room where they are kept warm, dry and safe from disease and predators. The next rite of passage comes in the fourth week, when turkeys reach puberty and grow feathers. For centuries, it was at this point that a domesticated turkey would move outdoors for the rest of its life.

But with the arrival of factory turkey farming in the 1960’s, all that changed. Factory-farm turkeys don’t even see the outdoors. Instead, as many as 10,000 turkeys that hatched at the same time are herded from brooders into a giant barn. These barns generally are windowless, but are illuminated by bright lights 24 hours a day, keeping the turkeys awake and eating.

These turkey are destined to spend their lives not on grass but on wood shavings, laid down to absorb the overwhelming amount of waste that the flock produces. Still, the ammonia fumes rising from the floor are enough to burn the eyes, even at those operations where the top level of the shavings is occasionally scraped away during the flock’s time in the barn.

Not only do these turkeys have no room to move around in the barn, they don’t have any way to indulge their instinct to roost (clutching onto something with their claws when they sleep). Instead, the turkeys are forced to rest in an unnatural position — analogous to what sleeping sitting up is for humans. “

BUT you can get natural, humanely raised turkeys:

“What to do? One solution is to bypass Broad Breasted Whites altogether. A few nonprofit groups — including my own, Slow Food U.S.A., and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy — are working with independent family farms to ensure that a handful of older, pre-industrial turkey varieties, known as heritage breeds, are still being grown. These varieties are slowly gaining recognition for their dark, rich and succulent meat. (My group, which encourages the preservation of artisanal foods, sells turkeys on behalf of these farmers, but we don’t profit from the transactions.)

While it might be too late to get your hands on a heritage bird this year, there are some other options available to consumers who would like a turkey raised in a more humane fashion, even if it is a Broad Breasted White. Farmers’ markets often have meat purveyors who raise their turkeys the way they should be, free ranging and outdoors.

At the market, you can often meet the person who grew your turkey and ask about how it was raised. Many independent butcher shops have developed relationships with local farmers who deliver fresh turkeys, especially for special occasions like Thanksgiving. A few environmentally conscious supermarkets get their turkeys from small family farms.

But as you shop, you need to look for more than just labels like “organic,” “free range” and “naturally raised.” They have been co-opted by big business and are no guarantee of a healthier and more humanely raised bird.

The key word to keep in mind is “traceability.” If the person behind the counter where you buy your turkey can name the farm or farmer who raised it, you are taking a step in the right direction. You’ll help give turkeys a better life. You’ll be kinder to the environment. And you might even wind up with a turkey that tastes, well, like a turkey. “

My message is think about what you eat. You can get meat that is raised humanely. Or you can support the corporate culture that only treats EVERYTHING according to its value as a monetary unit – inlcuding you.