Turkey D-Day

Today is turkey D-Day. About 40 birds will be prepared for the Thanksgiving Day table… in other words butchered. Tomorrow about 40 more will meet their maker and become someone’s dinner. I recently “talked” on facebook with a friend of mine from Fort Hood and shared about my transition to farmatarianism, eating only meat that you know personally. I was a vegetarian for eight years. I wasn’t a really good vegetarian, whatever that means. I was more concerned about the way meat was produced and what was in it. I was also concerned about the effects of excessive meat consumption on our bodies and the planet. I wasn’t concerned that animals should never be killed for food.

Anyway… it was probably strange for my friend to hear that I would be helping slaughter some 80 birds and what’s more I would happily eat them given the chance. I still don’t eat a lot of meat. It’s not often an option at the farm, but when it is I appreciate the life of the animals that we eat. Our turkeys are free range in every sense of that word. They roam free all day, foraging for food and stretching their legs. Our goats and cows also spend the majority of their time in pastures eating their meals straight from the soil. That is worlds apart from how your Big Mac or even grocery store meat is produced.

So, every year Cargill (God bless ’em!) donates about 100 turkeys to the farm along with their bedding and feed. We raise them and sell them for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We could ruminate on why Cargill would donate these birds to a farm that teaches methods of agriculture directly opposed to large industrial-scale production. Perhaps it’s a form of penance, an attempt at reaching some sort of redemption. Perhaps someone in the company has a subversive ironic streak. Regardless, it is a good things for these birds and the people that buy them.

Clearly, these turkeys have been bred for one thing and one thing only… meat. These are dumb animals. These birds see a large predator (aka me or Edwina, the wayfaring farm dog) and think to themselves, “Hey let’s all go check that out! Guys come over here! Look a predator! Let’s all go say hi!” Needless to say they would not last long in the wild. Unfortunately they also don’t last that long on the farm. One turkey randomly had a heart attack one day and became dinner. It seems they are looking for ways to die. Apparently it is not really true that turkeys can drown from looking up at the rain, but they’re so dumb it seem plausible.

Barbara Kingsolver’s account of trying to get her turkeys to reproduce and hatch eggs is a riot. The reason industrial turkey sex is so funny is because it simply does not happen. Imagine a couple of full grown adults who are supposed to be well versed in the birds and the bees, stumbling over what’s what and what goes where like a couple of pimply teenagers. Add to the lack of knowledge the fact that these guys are bread to be a tub o’ meat on toothpicks. They are no longer physiologically shaped for reproduction. In case this hasn’t been made abundantly clear let me say it. The turkeys you buy in the store do not have sex. They all have to be artificially inseminated in order to reproduce. That in itself is not humane.

There are heritage breed wild turkeys out there that you can buy. Those guys are smart and they know how to have sex. So, think about the life of turkeys this holiday season when you’re sticking that Butterball in the oven or deep fryer. Support turkey sex and happy turkeys this year and buy your bird from a farmer.

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16 thoughts on “Turkey D-Day

  1. tauriakane

    I love Turkey! They way my mom molests it with seasoning, slaps it around and throws it in the oven! Yum! Turduken is gross and should be outlawed. That’s just extreme and unnecessary.
    We eat what was put on this planet for us to consume, anything domesticated short of cats and dogs (In America anyway, don’t know what the hell they do in other countries) so what’s the big deal? Turkey, chicken, duck, cow, goat, sheep,, we use them all. I do get PETA’s screaming about the fur stuff but don’t tell me not to eat meat. I’ve got legume and vegetable allergies and eating sides alone isn’t going to work. Especially for a African American/Latina (Puerto Rican percisely) We cook Pork Shoulder for Christmas and sides of plantains, beans and rice so there is a nice balance. I think if you make a conscious effort to eat organic, meat and or vegetables; then do so. I’m about to work in a vegetarian restaurant and have learned lots of meal plans but i will be running to my nearest BBQ shack after work or for lunch. Bon Appetite!

    Reply
  2. vegantess

    There are several errors in your blog. However, I think I can make my point by addressing just two of them.

    Regarding your comments about turkeys being too stupid to procreate:
    “Commercial turkeys suffer horribly from serious physical malformations wrought by decades of genetic manipulation. Shortly after hatching, turkeys have the ends of their beaks and toes clipped off. These mutilations are performed without anesthesia, ostensibly to reduce injuries that result when stressed birds are driven to fighting. In addition to having been altered to grow quickly and unnaturally large, commercial turkeys have been bio-engineered to have extremely large breasts, in order to meet consumer demand for breast meat. Turkeys have been bred to grow faster and heavier but their skeletons haven’t kept pace, which causes ‘cowboy legs’. Commonly, turkeys have problems standing and fall and are trampled on or seek refuge under feeders, leading to bruises and down-gradings as well as culled or killed birds.As a result, turkeys cannot mount and reproduce naturally, so their sole means of reproduction is artificial insemination. Factory-farmed turkeys are prone to heart disease and leg injuries as a consequence of their grossly-overweight bodies.”
    excerpted from: http://farmsanctuary.org/issues/factoryfarming/poultry/

    Regarding your remarks about turkeys being too stupid to recognize danger:
    The black turkey with the spread fanned tail is how we picture what a traditional Thanksgiving turkey looks like. Sadly, after many years of genetic engineering, commercial turkeys look and act nothing like their wild predecessors.
    But for Mel Sunquist and his students, the turkey is a formidable opponent who can elude rocket-powered capture nets, high-tech camera equipment, and weeks of careful stalking. And he’s just trying to count them.
    “If you live in an urban area, you probably think of the turkey as a shockingly stupid bird that dies at Thanksgiving but lingers in your refrigerator for weeks. Anybody who knows wild turkeys [the same turkeys that have been genetically manipulated into the freakish bird raised on factory farms in cruel confinement by the hundreds of millions] will tell you these are not dumb birds,” said Sunquist, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “There are people who have spent years hunting turkeys without ever getting a clear shot at one.'”
    excerpted from: http://news.ufl.edu/2003/11/20/turkeyrevive/

    Reply
  3. Melita

    You should go back to being vegetarian. Turkeys may be “dumb” but they still feel pain and we don’t need to eat them.

    Reply
  4. Matt

    I have to admit I was kinda skeptical when I clicked on your blog from the wordpress homepage, but thanks for speaking truth, especially pertaining to the way we treat animals these days. I’m actually about to work on a post about Thanksgiving.

    Reply
  5. Susan

    YES – buy local and buy free range. My tiny flock of chickens RUN for the outside when I open the door in the morning. They LOVE being outside. They had a good lifebefore being humanely butchered.

    Jesus would eat Thanksgiving Dinner mindfully — appreciating the sensation, taste and aroma of the turkey meal and relish is s-l-o-w-l-y.

    Reply
  6. lucas Post author

    whoa… thanks for the comments. didn’t expect such a reaction.

    vegantess… you should re-read my post. i was saying many of the same things you are.

    Melita… my reason for eating meat again is not because i think animals are dumb. i was using humor to talk about some of the ridiculousness of the way our food is produced. i also don’t doubt that animals are sentient beings and feel pain. that’s why many hunter-gatherer societies had profound rituals involved in the taking of the life of an animal. here at the farm we pray and thank God for the life of the animal every time we butcher something.

    you don’t have to agree with me, but leave some room for diversity especially when we’re on the same side.

    Reply
  7. mindy

    Susan – There is no such thing as “humanely butchering” an animal. That’s an oxymoron.

    Lucas – Jesus would not eat meat in this day and age. Perhaps it was necessary 2000 years ago, but in America today, it certainly is not. It is not the most compassionate way to eat, and since Jesus’ message was all about compassion, him eating meat when it’s not necessary seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Also, I don’t think VeganTess misread your post – I think maybe you didn’t write everything you meant to. I read it the exact same way she did.

    Reply
  8. Bob Follansbee

    I am also glad to have been directed here from the WordPress homepage. I think Jesus, as a nice Jewish boy, would probably have loved his mom’s turkey soup, but I think he’d be horrified by the way we raise and treat the animals we eat, which leads us in the US to pay WAY too little for meat and eat WAY too much of it, for our own health as well as the planet’s. I fully agree with the idea of eating a limited amount of meat (why do we have incisors?), knowing that it is humanely raised and slaughtered. (That’s a tough standard though for many of us city folks, but I’m trying). Kudos for your thoughtful words.

    Reply
  9. HK

    Great post! You managed to educate us and still keep it very humorous. I agree with others, Jesus would definitely eat turkey. After all, he created them, and placed them on this earth specifically for eating. (what else are they good for, honestly?) But, mankind was also commanded to rule over them and care for them responsibly. Not to mention eat responsibly and in moderation! Happy Thanksgiving!

    Reply
  10. vegantess

    Lucas, might I respectfully agree to disagree, and I would ask that you carefully re-read my comments. Then you might understand the points I was making. As well, I’ll try to make my same points another, more direct, way…

    “Clearly, these turkeys have been bred for one thing and one thing only… meat. These are dumb animals.”
    REPLY >>> These animals are only dumb because they have been bred to be dumb – and, anyway, how is this ok with you? God gave us dominion over animals. Yet there is a world of difference between man choosing to be a benevolent steward (God’s intention),versus a cruel and controlling tyrant (which is the way man has bio-engineered and mis-treated factory farmed animals, breeding the God-given essence out of them).

    “These birds see a large predator (aka me or Edwina, the wayfaring farm dog) and think to
    themselves, “Hey let’s all go check that out! Guys come over here! Look a predator! Let’s all go say hi! Needless to say they would not last long in the wild.”
    REPLY >>> Shame on you for making fun of the evil results of genetic manipulation. Can you not see how tragic and sad it is that the turkey’s natural instincts have been literally bred out of them?

    “One turkey randomly had a heart attack one day and became dinner. It seems they are looking for ways to die.”
    REPLY >>> This is not funny. Your turkey was not looking for a way to die. He had a heart attack because his organs, in this case his heart, could no longer support the freakish growth rate and size that he had been bio-engineered to have.

    “Barbara Kingsolver’s account of trying to get her turkeys to reproduce and hatch eggs is a riot. The reason industrial turkey sex is so funny is because it simply does not happen. Imagine a couple of full grown adults who are supposed to be well versed in the birds and the bees, stumbling over what’s what and what goes where like a couple of pimply teenagers. Add to the lack of knowledge the fact that these guys are bread to be a tub o’ meat on toothpicks.”
    REPLY >>> Why is this a ‘riot’? It is obvious to anyone with a shred of compassion the very sad
    tragedy that has befallen these animals that God gave us to take care of. You call yourself a
    Christian, yet you remind me of the kid pointing his finger and laughing at the other kid with
    disabilities struggling to get along. Your attempts to make fun of the very creatures we have turned into avian monsters is twelve year old humor at best. Even though we have ruined them genetically they are still creatures of God.

    “They are no longer physiologically shaped for reproduction. In case this hasn’t been made
    abundantly clear let me say it. The turkeys you buy in the store do not have sex.
    REPLY >>> What is your point? Again, you are so obviously having fun at the expense of what man has done to one of God’s creatures.

    “They all have to be artificially inseminated in order to reproduce. That in itself is not humane.”
    REPLY >>> I agree, it is not humane. But again, your point is murky since the overall tone of your blog is one of weak justifications veiled with humor in order to clear your conscience about your decision to eat animal flesh. You seem very conflicted. I pray you will choose to open your eyes to the realities of factory farming and animal cruelty and re-evaluate your position.

    Reply
  11. lucas Post author

    vegantess… i’m happy to have a conversation with you, but your tone is combative and aggressive. Perhaps instead of making accusations and attacking me you could ask questions about what I meant.

    The intent of my post was not to make a case for anything. It was a reflection about my own personal journey. I was using humor to draw attention to the exact same issues you are chastising me about.

    If you’re interested in a conversation or dialogue then take a deep breath and try again. If you insist on name-calling then you can find another forum for your comments. A good rule of thumb online is not to type things that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face, particularly someone you just met. On my previous blog there was a lot more conversation in the comments. Perhaps I should bring back the Comment Code of Conduct.

    Reply

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