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Turkey Confessions


I have a confession: I roasted a turkey the other day--and it wasn’t Thanksgiving.


What?! I know, right? It almost felt sacrilegious.


I enjoyed myself. No stress of preparing seven dishes, no strain of having multiple people sharing the space. No pies and dressing and sweet potatoes to share the oven. Just me, a two-and-a-half hour turkey, some zucchini and broccoli ready to throw in the oven to roast with it, and a few random white potatoes I got to casually make into garlicky smashed. A full dinner and no big deal.


My partner had requested canned cran, so that took care of that side, and I didn’t bother thickening the simmering innards so there was no gravy to speak of—just some savory soup to spoon on—and it was good. Satisfying. Simple. Straightforward. No big deal.


I am a big fan of this approach. I am digging the calm and the ease. And experiencing big time gratitude.


Thank you, turkey. Thank you, Aldi, for procuring organic turkeys. It was yum. I stuffed it with herbs and garlic, onion and lemons. And now I get to turn that into soup.


Why am I writing about dinner?


Frequently I feel rushed when I cook. Even when I know what I’m making, I’m usually pulling myself from my work and see the preparing of a meal as an afterthought. A necessary, but not a joyful. The other night was both necessary and joyful. I gave myself permission to slow down and enjoy the process, the transformation. To enjoy the challenge. Cooking large and having it turn out well for the win.


I haven’t been a vegetarian for fourteen years, but I will always be a recovering one because it was during my formative cooking years that I avoided eating of the flesh. I was always fascinated. I grew up eating it. But I didn’t learn to cook meat of any ilk prior to the past fourteen years.


I am feeling immense gratitude towards the turkey which fed us last night and which will feed us for a while to come. Simultaneously, I am experiencing guilt in my complicity with eating any turkey which is not organic, free-range, non-GMO. You know, the standard cheap-ass turkey. Seventy-nine cents a pound or less.


The turkey I bought was not the hundred dollar birds you can get from a local farm. That is what they should cost. The true value. Birds that are raised outside on grass and bugs.


Mine was $2.99 a pound. So about thirty bucks. Manageable for special, but not something one buys every week. Ha. That’d be an awful lot of turkey anyway.


Why the price range?


Do you want a turkey that has been grown with love and sunshine? Respect and appropriate feed? Or are you content with a bird grown indoors in cramped quarters, with over large breasts which cause it to overbalance and fall down? Birds which are raised on a cocktail of genetically-modified grains laced with residual pesticides?


Yum.

Not.


I would place my bird somewhere in the middle of that range. Free-range, that is. Ha. But not necessarily raised with love. My Aldi bird was fed organic grains free of genetically-modified organisms. My Aldi bird had access to the great outdoors, whether it went out or not we don’t know.



Free-range only means there is a door. It does not mean the animals go through it. Organic and non-GMO mean the grain is clean and free of chemicals. It does not mean it’s exactly what turkeys eat in the wild.


I am happy to report that my bird’s breasts (G-rated blog post, Helen) are not overly large. They seem quite appropriate for a ten-pounder.


I just dived into a rabbit hole.


I am now thinking I will not be able to participate in eating any seventy-nine cent bird.


The way conventional birds are raised is appalling. Stop reading if you’re squeamish.


(photo credit)

Yes, beaks and toes are trimmed—without anesthesia—to keep them from hurting each other in their tight quarters. Yes, they are treated without regard for their being living, breathing creatures: thousands stuffed into windowless warehouses; excrement piling up around them; overfed to grow rapidly—the turkeys are “harvested” at five months, which is, coincidentally, how long they stay with their mothers in the wild—overfed to the extent that they are unable to procreate naturally.


In order to make baby turkeys, artificial insemination is, therefore, necessary. The breast size of the males and the consequent tendency towards skeletal damage means they cannot copulate naturally. Even more damning: being overfed makes the females infertile, so a certain number of birds are kept on half rations. They live a bit longer than the industry-standard of five months. But at what cost?


What exactly is overfeeding? From an animal welfare site:


“If a human baby grew at the same rate as modern turkeys, it would weigh 1,500 pounds by the age of 18 weeks.”


Oh my. Yeah, I’m not feeling so good about participating in this industry. That’s where all of our cheap-ass lunch meat comes from too.


Humans be creative, that’s fer dang sure. Not nice, but certainly creative.


So, bless it and move on? That’s up to each of us.


If I do decide to eat of a conventionally-raised turkey, I will certainly do a lot of blessing. And I will avoid the skin. The skin and other fatty bits are where the majority of the chemicals are stored. I may not be able to protect the turkey from human “ingenuity”, but I can protect some of the humans.


What do you think? What will you do this year?

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