Thanksgiving is about food. Lots and lots of food. But while we loosen our belts, we are hopefully thinking about what we are thankful for. During this thoughtful and reflective time of year, I think we should also be thinking about where such bounty comes from. What steps preceded the turkey arriving on your plate? I’m not talking about your mother-in-law back seat cooking on Thursday afternoon. I mean before that. How did the turkey spend its life before it became headless and frozen?
Here is what Jonathon Safran Foer has to say about what it means to eat turkey on Thanksgiving (excerpt from his book Eating Animals):
At the center of our Thanksgiving tables is an animal that never breathed fresh air or saw the sky until it was packed away for slaughter. At the end of our forks is an animal that was incapable of reproducing sexually. In our bellies is an animal with antibiotics in its belly. The very genetics of our birds are radically different. If the pilgrims could have seen into the future, what would they have thought of the turkey on our table? Without exaggeration, it’s unlikely that they would recognize it as a turkey.
Almost 300 million turkeys are raised for slaughter each year in America. Most spend their days in windowless sheds with thousands of other birds. It is so crowded in there that turkeys cannot spread their wings even once in their lifetimes. They have to have their beaks and toes cut off to keep from killing each other in such close quarters. Many die of stress-related illnesses like heart failure at a young age or they lose the ability to walk because their legs do not support their body weight. Turkeys have been genetically modified and pumped with chemicals so that they fatten up faster and live shorter lives. Those chemicals and antibiotics are transferred to your body upon consumption.
If you can, try to find independent butcher shops near you by using this site: www.LocalHarvest.org. Talking to a farmer one-on-one at a local market about how your turkey was raised ensures that you are avoiding green washing, i.e. claims of humane conditions without proof. Avoid buying the Broad Breasted White brand of turkey because that is the type that is genetically modified. An alternative is the Heritage Turkey which is raised naturally.
Here are some recipes for side dishes, desserts, soups, and salads that are made with earth-friendly ingredients: