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Let's Talk Turkey

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 11:03:21 AM PST

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Thanksgiving is almost upon us and that means bad luck for about 46 million turkeys. Sherrie Rosenblatt, spokeswoman for the National Turkey Federation, says "That's basically most Americans having turkey at the center of their plate." And I'm sorry, but this is a particular pet peeve of mine. I find the turkey obsession a bit disgusting. Here's why:

The conventional Thanksgiving turkey purchased at the grocery store is a Broad Breasted White. These turkeys are bred to have so much breast meat, that they are often unable to physically support themselves or breed. That means that without human help, these birds would die out in just one generation. Talk about a franken-turkey!

Thanksgiving, which I love for being the one day a year in which we celebrate local food indigenous American food, is instead of celebration of these unnatural factory farmed turkeys. From what I hear, as we developed the Broad Breasted White for its efficient conversion of grain to breast meat, we lost flavor.

Jill Richardson :: Let's Talk Turkey
What do we get for our sacrifice of flavor? Well, apparently Thanksgiving costs about the same as it did 20 years ago (after accounting for inflation). Turkey prices are just up about 9 cents per pound over last year. And agribusiness analyst Christopher Bledsoe says he thinks "that this Thanksgiving will be somewhat lost to the producers." Really? So for all of that efficiency, it's not even doing any good for the farmers? And if it's not good for consumers either, then who the hell IS benefiting from this idiocy?

There IS an alternative to the broad-breasted white, and I'm not talking about Tofurkey (a product I consider equally unnatural to our mass-produced turkeys). It's a little late for this year, but next year start looking in advance for a heritage breed turkey. These are turkey breeds that grow slower than broad-breasted whites but they are able to breed all by themselves (imagine that!) and they can survive outdoors for many years (the broad-breasted whites Bush will pardon this year will probably not live to see a second Thanksgiving). For more on heritage turkeys - why they taste better and where to buy them - check out Sustainable Table.

A Bourbon Red heritage turkey

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