The U.S. is the world’s largest producer and exporter of turkey products, producing around 7.5 billion pounds of turkey meat each year, mostly in states like Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana and Missouri. When the turkeys arrive plucked and cleaned at our supermarkets, we have very little understanding of the process it took to get the birds to our table. But the majority of the turkeys come from industrial factory farms, where they are pumped full of GMO corn and tons of antibiotics before being shoved into an overcrowded barn. Back in the day, raising turkeys was a seasonal event in order to match demand, but current factory farming habits allowed for year-round production of the birds. As more people want ground turkey and turkey meat as a substitute to red meat, more birds will be left in inhuman conditions. This includes being raised in overcrowded, dirty environments that allow for no freedom of movement. Birds raised this way go crazy, peck at other birds around them, and have even been seen cannibalizing one another. To combat this, farmers have taken to 'beak trimming' which is done without anasthetic and remove the bird's natural ability to sense their environment.
Turkeys have been heavily genetically manipulated. Today's turkeys bear little resemblance to the turkeys of the past, as they're bred to grow fast and large, often too big for their legs to support them. Because they're so large, they're unable to breed naturally and are bred by artificial insemination. This means that birds live a miserable life. A bird that could live up to 12 years in the wild is routinely slaughtered at anywhere between 9 and 24 weeks.
And, if that's not enough, factory farming is some of the most notorious pollutors in the country. The runoff poisons the ground and waters around the farms, and there are been numerous illnesses traced back to contaminated poultry.
One of the biggest producers of turkey meat, Cargill, was listed by mightyearth.org as one of the worst companies in the world:
“Throughout its history, Cargill has exhibited a disturbing and repetitive pattern of deception and destruction . . . its practices have ranged from violating trade embargoes and price fixing, to ignoring health codes and creating markets for goods produced with child and forced labor.”
The demand will likely always be there, but a smart consumer who is aware of the impact that factory farming has on the world can help mitigate their impact. Shopping for organic birds that have been humanely raised is important, though a consumer must be careful as many companies like Tyson have been caught lying about their farming practices. Factory farming is deeply inhumane and goes against our values, so help take action to end the practice.