November 12, 2009

Select an Organic, Free Range, Antibiotic Free Turkey this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just a week away, and you may be wondering what kind of bird to serve (if you serve a bird at all). The domestication of the turkey is actually a sad story in the history of poultry. In fact, genetic selection for conformity and weight have resulted in a industry in which artificial insemination is the norm and "natural mating is virtually impossible". Barbara Kingsolver shares her amusing tale in turkey breeding in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but not many birds are so lucky. Besides problems with natural procreation, the poultry industry produces between two to four billion pounds of feather waste each year!

Around Thanksgiving time, the old adage "You are what you eat" rings true, thus you should select an organic, free range, antibiotic free turkey. Consider these free range turkey facts:

  • According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the single condition for the term 'free-range' is that birds have access to the outdoors. All other facets of a free-range turkey's life can be indistinguishable from the living conditions of a conventional-raised bird.

  • To prevent free-roaming birds from injuring each other in the grow-out quarters, a portion of their beaks and toes are severed without the aid of anesthesia. Ian J.H. Duncan, a professor of Poultry Ethology at the University of Guelph in Canada, says "the idea of beak trimming being a short-lived discomfort for the bird may be far from accurate. The short and long-term changes in behavior, particularly the substantial decrease in activities involving the beak and the increase in inactivity particularly in the first week after the operation, suggests that the birds are suffering severe pain."

  • Free-range turkeys are slaughtered between 14 and 25 weeks of age. Reaching 'slaughter-age', turkeys are transported via multi-tiered, flat-bed trucks in overcrowded wire cages, enduring all types of weather conditions. Arriving at the slaughterhouse, the fully-conscious birds are hung by their legs and their throats are slashed. The Humane Slaughter Act and Animal Welfare Act exempt turkeys from legal protection.

Do your homework and buy a bird that has truly lived in ethical conditions before it ends up on your table, or you could avoid the bird altogether and have a vegan Thanksgiving.

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Posted by Jennifer Lance at November 12, 2009 9:15 PM

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