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.