Everyone is probably busy getting ready for Thanksgiving, shopping, cooking, baking and cleaning. I picked up my turkey this afternoon, which was an event in itself, being that I haven’t made or eaten turkey in 10 years. This year I thought I’d break with my normal vegetarian diet and make a traditional meal, but I knew I had to get a bird that was sustainable, cruelty free and not laced with hormones and chemicals.
I set out to order an organic turkey, thinking that would be my best bet, but discovered the Heirloom or Heritage birds, as well as more shocking information about conventional turkey. I’m sharing what I learned, so if you haven’t purchased your turkey yet, hopefully you will take this info into consideration.
Industrial turkeys, produced in factory farms by large corporations, comprise 99% of the turkey sold in supermarkets today. Since the 1960’s the choice has been one breed, the Broad-breasted White and since then has been bred to have even more breast meat and grow to market size quickly. These turkeys are unable to stand up or move, their breasts are so large. Unable to mate, reproduction is done by artificial insemination. They are fed grain and other disgusting things, totally unnatural to their diet, along with hormones and antibiotics. As most know, their living conditions are inhumane.
Most people don’t know how cruel and unnatural their turkey’s life is, but I think most would find it even more surprising that these turkeys are dry and have no flavor. To make them tasty and moist, ALL supermarket turkeys are injected with oil, salt and turkey flavorings. You are not getting a real food, but a processed, chemically laced product.
Largely due to the Slow Food movement, Heritage birds are making a comeback. A certified Heritage, or Heirloom turkey is one that can flap its wings, move around, can perch above the ground at night, and express its natural behaviors. They also eat nutritious food, without antibiotics or other chemicals, and food natural to them such as grubs, insects and grasses. These turkeys have a rich flavor, beautiful plumage, and are biologically diverse. They are more costly, because of the way they are raised, and it takes 24 -30 weeks to get to market weight, as opposed to 18 weeks to get a conventional turkey to a whopping 32 pounds, but those who have tasted the Heritage Breeds say they are worth it. I am really looking forward to finding out!
There are about 10 breeds of turkey still existing from the United States and Europe, developed over hundreds of years, that are the ancestors of the Broad-breasted White used in the factory farms today. Identified by the American Poultry Association’s turkey Standard of Perfection in 1874, they include The Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Jersey Bluff, Slate, Black Spanish, and White Holland.
I hope this helps you make your choice. I know it’s late, so if you already have your bird in hand, please remember this for the next holiday and be sure to pass it on. If you haven’t picked up your bird yet, I saw that my Whole Foods did have some Heirlooms in the case, so there is still time. I got the largest Heirloom they had today, almost 18 lbs., and it was a big deal for me, not having eaten meat in over 10 years! This is going to be interesting.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! We are so grateful for all the efforts you make that ADD UP to make the world a better place.