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One bit of “consumerism” I will participate in

October 10, 2008


The Boss-Wild Turkey, originally uploaded by William Dalton.

While I (N.) have opted out of a lot of holiday “traditions” lately like dyeing easter eggs or buying plastic coated high fructose sugar for Halloween I still want to participate in Thanksgiving. I see it as a time to reflect on the past season and gather with family and friends as we go into the leaner winter months. Next year I’m hoping for it to represent the culmination of our first full growing year as well.

Celebrating any holiday still means doing so in a green and sustainable way and on Thanksgiving Day the turkey is definitely the star of the show! I’ve made Thanksgiving dinner for my family twice now and while the first time I totally copped out and had Boston Market do all the work the second time I did all the work. Most things with the exception of the baked beans (from a can) and the stuffing (from a box) were made from scratch and while it was a lot of work I really felt good about it. I’m not sure how much it all cost but I feel confident that the whole meal didn’t cost what a getting heritage turkey is going to cost me this year.

There are lots of reasons to purchase a heritage turkey. The turkey industry has concentrated on developing, raising, and marketing only one genetically modified variety, the Broad-Breasted White. These birds will live their entire lives packed in a small indoor “house” kept doped up with antibiotics and stuffed full with cheap corn based feed. It’s a horrible life for the animal and focuses more on creating birds of a uniform shape and size instead of the overall health of the bird and the flavor of the meat.

There are dozens of different varieties of turkeys with different genetic makeups, history, and origins but large scale livestock farms don’t care about any of that. The want a fast and easy solution to raising these birds and in doing so they have pushed many varieties to the brink of extinction. By relying solely on a single strain of the Broad-Breasted White we are one pathogen away from havung the turkey wiped off the American dinner table. “The fewer genetic strains of an animal there are, the smaller the chance for the necessary genes to resist a lethal pathogen. Maintaining genetic diversity within any species is crucial for a secure and sustainable food supply. The greed of the nation’s major poultry companies regards maintaining genetic diversity as a frivolous investment of time, energy, and money that does not contribute to the bottom line. Genetic diversity does not, after all, make a poultry company faster at what they do.” (Heritage Foods USA).

Even people that want to raise heritage breeds are facing obstacles because we have lost our knowledge about these birds. And the birds themselves have lost the knowledge of how to self procreate! We are actually erasing the birds ability to produce on the most simple biological functions and that scares me.

So when we found out J. got his new job the first thing we did was order our turkey. I have to admit that on one income I wouldn’t have done it and I know that’s wrong. I know that we need to put our money where are mouth is and support sustainable farming practices but… Making green changes that cost time but save money like making our own cleaning products or living with worms are easy for us but spending more money to support farmers and artisans that are growing or creating things that we can’t is something we need to put more effort into.

I looked into getting a local heritage turkey but I found little information online and those that I did find were more expensive even if I drove the 2 hours to pick the bird up myself then the turkey we ended up getting from Heritage Foods USA. I think if I had gone out to Lancaster County I probably could have found a farmer that is raising heritage turkeys and would have given me a better deal but J and I haven’t found the time to get back out there and I didn’t want to risk turkeys selling out. So while I won’t be supporting a local farmer I do know that “HERITAGE FOODS USA exists to promote independent family farms, humane production, genetic diversity and traceability.” Their mission statement really resonates with me and I’m glad that I can help contribute in a small way. We ordered a 8-10lb turkey for $129 (including shipping). Now don’t pass out! You have to remember you are supporting genetic diversity, helping to save gentic strains of the Turkey and supporting small independent farmers. Now keep telling yourself this as you slowly breathe in and out. You can get just the breast meat or you can get the big berthe of turkey’s at 24lbs. Just remember this is alot of meat and you can always freeze some, repurpose it or perhaps share it. If a couple families go in on a bird together the cost comes down and less of the bird will be wasted because you won’t have to worry about what to do with the leftovers.

Like I said it’s not a cheap option and in hard economic times it hurts us in our wallets which are already crying but especially when times are tough we have to support each other. We have to support the farmers and artisans that are working at keeping our agricultural system sustainable. If we don’t help them now, when they are sure to be hurting as well then they’ll be forced to quit or sell out and I think that’s the last thing any of us want.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 10, 2008 7:02 pm

    Bravo and thank you for supporting farmers and Heritage livestock!

    My husband and I are vegetarian, but I was so moved by Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral that we have started considering raising heirloom goats and chickens on our future farm, using the eggs and milk for ourselves and selling/giving the meat to conscientious carnivores.

  2. August 13, 2009 10:49 am

    I have been raising turkeys now for about a year. I have a somewhat larger city lot. It has been an amazing journey, but well worth it. I am really amped about whole foods, though I am not yet a completely disciplined adherent. I love turkey eggs, I think turkeys and chickens are amazing providers of soil tilth and my garden is growing like crazy as a result of having birds. I now hatch my own birds (chickens and heritage bronze and narraganset turkeys), and have recently allowed two hens to brood clutches with moderate success. My neighbors are kind to me and allow me to have a rooster. I keep him in a sound muffling enclosure at night and let him out before I go to work. I am looking forward to processing and eating my first bird this coming T-day.

    • badhuman permalink*
      September 10, 2009 4:48 pm

      Good luck, I’m sure it will be an interesting experience. Eventually my husband and I would like to raise chickens and ducks and perhaps turkeys.

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