This holiday season you may be better off buying your turkey from a local turkey farm or other local supplier rather than buying an organic turkey from a large far-off supplier.
This holiday season you may be better off buying your turkey from a local turkey farm or other local supplier rather than buying an organic turkey from a large far-off supplier. The reason: large organic farms can operate in many ways like large industrial or factory farms that are designed to produce uniform quantities or turkeys that can be shipped over long distances.
Prior to the industrialization of turkey production, which began at the turn of the century, small family farms often kept a flock of turkeys that roamed around to graze, roosting in trees, and growing to full size only after seven or more months. With historic names like Narragansett, Bourbon Red, Jersey Buff, and Beltsville Small White, these old-fashioned breeds are called ”˜Heritage Turkeys”.
But today’s the turkeys we eat, for the most part, are all one variety known as the Large White that was introduced in the 1950s and was subsequently bred to meet the needs of industrial production. Large Whites grow rapidly and reach full size in about two months. They often are raised on high fat diets in cramped quarters and given antibiotics to prevent disease. And they taste like it.
According to the editors of The Green Guide buying turkeys raised on small farms or sold by small local suppliers not only will give you a better tasting turkey, but you will be helping small-scale agriculture. Buying locally also helps avoid extra energy-related costs that result from shipping turkeys long distances.
The editors caution that methods used by smaller local farms and suppliers don't always get certified and so therefore can't label themselves as such, even though they are essentially organic. They recommend you look for the American Humane Association’s “Free Farmed” label on certified turkeys in the store to make sure the turkey has had a good diet, grazing, and appropriate environment. Another label that indicates a good choice is “Certified Humane Raised and Handled” which is supervised by Humane Farm Animal Care.
The Green Guide also provides a list of various suppliers for organic turkey and suggests ways to locate your closest source by checking the website called Local Harvest. A good source for information on Heritage Turkeys is Slow Food USA.
An award-winning broadcast journalist and new media executive whose credits include a wide range of environmental and "green consumer" websites and programs, Joyce H. Newman is a Trustee of the Green Guide Institute, a nonprofit, independent publisher of consumer health and safety advice, product reviews, and shopping tips. She currently heads Newman Productions, specializing in strategic communications for a variety of national nonprofit organizations.