Saturday, October 12, 2013

Talking Turkey

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada.

Why I won’t be purchasing a turkey to cook on Thanksgiving Day…

…especially (don’t click on the link if you’re sensitive, like me, to animal cruelty) a Butterball turkey.

Recently, I was watching a television programme where a turkey farmer was being interviewed. In the background, a “tom” (male turkey) was fidgeting about. The interviewer asked, “What is that turkey doing?” to which the farmer replied, “He’s masturbating.”

The fact that a turkey was frantically masturbating on national television and this event was treated like it was nothing unusual, gave me pause for thought. (And I know what you’re thinking. A masturbating turkey sounds rather amusing but I was not laughing.)

Because suddenly it hit me why the turkey was masturbating.

Today’s “super turkeys” (also known as the “Broad Breasted White”); the kind most often found in your supermarket, are bred on overcrowded factory farms for maximum breast size. Because of their over-sized breasts, the toms are too heavy to mate naturally with the hens. The hens must be artificially inseminated. It’s a traumatic experience for both males and females. So is it any wonder that the turkey on TV was masturbating?

Call me old-fashioned but in my opinion, this isn’t right.

The hens are never in contact with their chicks. As a result, the chicks don’t learn survival skills based on behavioural clues from their mothers, not to mention that hen and chick are deprived of maternal bonding.

Above: How it should be.

Turkeys not forced to live on factory farms “spend their days caring for their young, building nests, foraging for food, taking dust baths, preening themselves, and roosting high in trees.” These simple, natural pleasures are denied the factory farm turkeys.

Oh, and did I mention that due to their large size, factory farm turkeys can’t run or fly? Wild turkeys can fly at speeds up to 55 miles an hour and run 18 miles an hour. Factory farm turkeys don’t run; they waddle.

The turkeys our ancestors raised or purchased, known today as “heritage turkeys,” have become rare breeds although there are efforts underway to increase their numbers.

I'm not insisting that we all become vegetarians but the manner in which the food industry operates must be challenged and changed.

So if you do eat turkey, perhaps you’ll consider purchasing a local, organic, small farm-raised turkey, or a heritage turkey instead. Even if the issue of ethical turkey farming isn’t important to you, you’ll notice an improvement in the flavor.


  1. I agree completely.
    Modern life has failed us all in this area.

    Happy Thanksgiving..!

    1. WALLY: Since you’re in the restaurant business, you’re in an excellent position to make change by seeing that your business doesn’t purchase products from factory farms.

      From a health perspective for you and your customers, studies show that pastured-based meat and dairy are far more nutritious than their conventional counterparts.

      We can’t rely on government policy to change our food system, so it’s up to us as consumers to take the initiative.

      We can change our food system.

      Occupy Big Food!

  2. Replies
    1. LX: I don’t know whether or not Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. has cleaned up its act but they were once charged with polluting the sewer system of a Massachusetts town and a nearby river.

  3. happiest thanksgiving dearest Mildred Jo!

    i appreciate your sentiments and hardly disagree. i stopped eating pigs after i was brought to a pig factory. pigs are supposedly smarter than dogs & they certainly remind me of corgis. wally's right, modern life has failed us.

    1. NORMA: I applaud your decision to stop eating pigs.

      I still have the odd slice of bacon but I’ve cut down. It’s a work in progress.

      You’re right…evidence shows that pigs are as smart and as sociable as dogs. Yet dogs (for the most part) are afforded affection and respect while pigs are slaughtered to become bacon, ham and pork chops.

  4. A touching moment here on the Infomaniac. I only eat turkey once a year. I love it but it's a treat just for Thanksgiving. My aunt usually goes to a farm where they are raised to select one. But I have heard of these over crowded farms, it's terrible. KFC isn't any better with the raising of their chickens. It's the reason I won't eat there. Meanwhile......if you could give me that white meat below, I 'd gladly give up turkey altogether.

    1. MISTRESS MADDIE (and everyone else): Tell the CEO and President of factory-farmed turkeys, such as Butterball, that you will not buy their products, nor support their destructive and inhumane practices.

      Here’s an example of a protest letter to Butterball. Or if you’re pressed for time, simply send a brief note stating your position.

      If writing letters doesn’t work for you, spread the word to your friends and family when the topic of turkey comes up. (Perhaps not at the dinner table though.) Be the little ripple in the big pool.

      And then help yourself to the white meat in that last photo.

  5. Old Knudsen doesn't have a problem with huge breasts...
    I don't eat turkey unless it's free range and grown on my stepsisters farm. she grows some sort of heritage breed but in very small numbers max 15 birds and raises next years crop from the chicks bred from this years christmas dinners...
    We don't do Thanksgiving in OZ... but have a happy one anyway "Militant Julieanne"

  6. PRINNY: Kudos to you and your stepsister.

    Australia has a bad track record regarding factory farmed turkeys.

    Fortunately, there are also happy stories such as the eight turkeys who were rescued from a factory farm by the good people at Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary in Victoria, Australia.

  7. I rarely eat turkey, but I have eaten farm bred organic turkey, and it did taste better.
    I've also given up bacon, but have the occasional lapse.

    1. MISS SCARLET: Sadly, some free-range turkeys are not treated any better than factory farmed turkey so we mustn't be fooled by labels that promise "free range" or "organic."

      I've been fooled by labels on numerous occasions regarding various food products so I try to do my homework.

      It pays to do our research before buying and find out about the conditions at a particular farm AND the slaughterhouse.

    2. Fear not... this turkey was... er... chosen when it was still alive... and... Erm... we got regular reports of its weight gain. IT WAS HAPPY WHILST IT LIVED.
      Yes, I feel very bad writing this.... and have never really indulged much in turkey since.

    3. MISS SCARLET: “It was happy whilst it lived” is important to know.

      They all come to the same unfortunate ending but at least they lived comfortably.

      Vegans and vegetarians would take issue with my comment but for those of us who still like the odd slice of bacon, it’s of some comfort to know the animals were treated humanely when they were being raised.

      Vegetarians have the last laugh as they tend to live longer than meat eaters and are less likely to die from heart disease.

  8. Hear Hear!
    I actually know someone who inseminates doesn't get much worse for a species to be engineered for failure.
    If we are are going to tinker with genetics why not make it impossible for violent human idiots to reproduce?

    1. DONN: Turkey masturbator…what a soul-crushing job. Not to mention the suffering (I’ve read about how it’s done) and indignity forced on the turkey.

      I agree with your thoughts on tinkering with genetics to make it impossible for violent human idiots to reproduce. I’m not a violent idiot (in my opinion, anyway) but I made my choice not to reproduce as we have enough problems in the world without adding another mouth to feed.

      I see people everyday who shouldn’t be parents but then I start to sound like Hitler when I suggest under my breath that they have their tubes tied. Thankfully, intelligent, thoughtful and kind people like you ARE parents and can responsibly rear a healthy child into adulthood.

      Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow Canuck! xooo

    2. here, here! now, is that violent humans AND human idiots? wanna start an online petition?

    3. NORMA: Who’s first on your “hit list?”

  9. Genetically modified food is a constant topic in my home. Mostly about high fructose corn syrup and Monsanto but just about everything we consume has been altered. It's an epidemic with a vicious circle aspect. The food makes us sick so we need the health industry which in turn fuels the pharmaceutical giants and makes necessary the insurance companies.

    They're all in league with one another.

    Happy Thanksgiving Merdis Jolene!

    1. AYEM8Y: Absolutely! They’re all in cahoots!..the food industry, the health industry and the pharmaceutical giants.

      Forty-nine countries, including Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Russia, the European Union member states, and other key United States trading partners, have laws mandating disclosure of genetically engineered foods on food labels. Many countries have restrictions or bans against foods produced with genetic engineering.

      Mandatory labeling on genetically modified foods is not in effect here in Canada.

      In the United States, Washington State will be voting in November on mandatory GMO labeling.

      We have the right to know whether or not our foods have been genetically modified.

  10. I think there are few (if any) other texts that contain so many lies per line like food labels.

    1. MAGO: Food labels require a PhD to decode.

      And speaking of food labeling, we here in Canada are led to believe that if the “Heart and Stroke Foundation” has approved a menu item with their “Health Check Program,” then it must be a healthy choice.

      Yet they’ve given their “Health Check” symbol of approval to menu items at the fast food restaurants “Harvey’s” and “Pizza Pizza!”

      But wait! The Heart and Stroke Foundation has also approved CANDY!

      Who can we trust anymore?!

  11. Fat, sugar, msg = instant success.
    One can trust the own brain; sometimes.