As you read this, someone close to you may be cleaning, stuffing, or slicing a turkey. Over 45 million turkeys were purchased for Thanksgiving out of the 265 million raised this year alone. The vast majority of these birds were grown on industrial farms.
Perhaps your bird is organic, free range, or locally grown, but odds are you won’t be dining on a heritage turkey this holiday. You may be surprised to learn just how much healthier these birds are, how crucial they are for the future of our food system, and why its hard for this niche to turn a profit.
Heritage turkeys – birds with genetic lines that predate the engineering that defines the current poultry market – are bred and raised in a traditional, humane, and sustainable manner. To meet the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy standard, they must mate naturally, live productively outdoors, and grow slowly in order to develop strong bodies.
In contrast, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, 99% of American turkeys are Broad Breasted Whites. These turkeys are the product of the 1960′s shift to industrial farming and have been bred to grow the maximum quantity of white meat. Such genetic selection is inhumane, dangerous to human health, and ultimately not commercially viable.