Have you been furiously searching the Internet for a Thanksgiving dinner idea to make your meal unique? Are you looking for recipes, crafts and decor to transform your Thanksgiving into a holiday to remember? Thanksgiving is in just a few weeks and many, MANY Americans will be heading to the grocery store to pick up their turkey. Don’t worry…I’m not going to tell you to skip the turkey and eat tofu instead (unless you really WANT to!). But there are options out there for people who are concerned about the sustainability of their food. The food we eat, the decor we choose and how we decide to spend our day all have a vital impact on our carbon footprint this holiday season. I just placed my order with Whole Foods for my sustainably raised Thanksgiving turkey and have even tried my hand at a few eco friendly Thanksgiving crafts. If you are wondering how to create a green Thanksgiving for your own family, I hope you start by taking a look at your Thanksgiving turkey. This post contains affiliate links.
Sustainable Thanksgiving Dinner Idea
That is NOT the most attractive looking bird I have ever seen but it, along with millions of it’s relatives, will soon be on dining room tables around the country. I’m not going to advocate that you skip the main dish and go meatless, although that is certainly an option. I AM, however, going to provide you with some information that you might want to consider before picking up your turkey at the grocery store. Years ago I read a book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver and there was one chapter that had me incredibly sad yet laughing all at the same time. The author’s attempts to raise and breed heritage turkeys is downright amusing!
A look at most Thanksgiving Turkeys
Did you know that Americans consume over 400 million turkeys each year, most of them are the exact same breed of Broad-Breasted White. This is an an incredibly fast growing breed that has been developed for the industrial setting. Unlike its’ sleek wild turkey cousins, as adults they are incapable of flying, foraging, or even mating. Yes, these poor over-bred animals are absolutely unable to have sex. In fact, if they were to actually escape slaughter there is no way they would survive past 1 year because their immense bodies would be so heavy that their legs would collapse under their own weight. As one industry publication explains, “If a seven pound(human) baby grew at the same rate that today’s turkey grows, when the baby reached 18 weeks of age, it would weigh 1,500 pounds.”
Genetic selection of the Broad-Breasted white is based only on how fast the animal grows and how stupid and inactive it is. Stupid, inactive, and fast growing means higher profit for factory farms. Increased breast size is vitally important, as well, and as a result the turkey’s body is almost deformed. As a result, we are left with birds that barely have the strength to stand or walk, let alone fly, forage and mate like they should! They require factory workers to extract the semen manually (Big ICK!) and artificially inseminate the females.<
Why choose heritage turkeys?
There are advocacy groups who are trying to do their part to solve the problem. The Heritage Turkey Foundation was formed to protect the surviving heritage (old breed) turkey strains and re-introduce them to the American marketplace. Supermarket turkeys grow to an average of 32 pounds over 18 weeks. Heritage birds take anywhere from 24-30 weeks to reach their market weight. Obviously, you are going to pay more for a heritage turkey that has been farm raised. The price comparison I come up with is 69 cents a pound for a traditional supermarket turkey on sale for Thanksgiving versus the price on localharvest.org of anywhere from $70 to $225 for one bird, depending on size (between an 8 pound hen and a 20 pound Tom). I was a little floored when I saw the prices! If buying a heritage turkey is a sustainable Thanksgiving dinner idea that appeals to you, I called Whole Foods and they told me that they offer organic turkeys or farm raised heirloom breeds for $3.99 a pound. (they don’t offer a turkey that is organic AND farm raised AND heirloom variety) According to Whole Foods, their turkeys come from Diestel Turkey Ranch in California. The website has a lot of interesting information and photos if you are interested in checking it out.
How does a heritage turkey taste?
There is an interesting article in Mother Earth News about a comparison test based on flavor, texture, tenderness, aroma and appearance. They chose 8 heritage breeds and a butterball for the test and when the tally was counted all eight of the heritage turkey varieties came out ahead of the industrial variety. Heritage turkeys are often considered to be a healthier food, due to their more natural diet. They tend to contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease.
Choosing a heritage turkey is just one sustainable Thanksgiving dinner idea that can help reduce your carbon footprint. If you are looking for ways to create a green Thanksgiving this year, I recommend you skip the supermarket turkey and look for one from a small, local farmer or at least one that was raised sustainably from your local natural foods store. I would hate to be responsible for contributing to the sexual frustration of an entire species!