This Thanksgiving, my family had a pretty traditional spread. We had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls and an assortment of desserts. It really never struck me until this year how many components from how many different areas a typical meal could come from, never mind one as large as a Thanksgiving dinner. We were bad consumers this year and went with a commercial brand turkey. On some past holiday occasions we’ve tried to buy locally-raised or organic birds, but we were surrounded by farms and small butcheries at the time and weren’t in the middle of a move. So I can definitely say it was more convenient (and probably cheaper) to choose a turkey right off the shelf and passively thaw it out for a few days. But, there are definitely benefits with going for free range, organic, natural, etc.
Obviously, you get a happier bird. I don’t plan on going vegetarian in the near future, but I still like knowing that the animals that wind up on my plate weren’t mistreated, and that they got there at their maturity (as opposed to some processes in which hormones are used to accelerate growth and make the point A to point B journey a bit faster). All it takes is a quick google image search to see the difference between an intensive turkey farm and a free range one, and many poultry farms are run in similar (if not worse) states.
And, if that argument wasn’t compelling enough, there’s also the all-important taste factor. Many have dismissed the turkey as being dry, tasteless meat which needs to be smothered in sauces and gravy or even deep-fried in oil to be considered appetizing. But like in many cases, there are definitely different qualities of meat. What we have been trained as consumers to expect is the typically dry white turkey breast, when in reality, turkey can be just as good as any other kind of poultry. Free range turkeys typically live longer and are better to eat because of the healthier lifestyles.
I’m focusing in on the main dish because that’s the focus of many large holiday meals, but the rest of my dinner was most likely littered with contaminants of the modern age. The vegetables, the grains, the fruity pie fillings…since nothing we bought was labeled “organic”, it’s safe to assume there were a good amount of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) involved in the growing process. I don’t really expect my Christmas dinner to be 100% organic or even free range, but I think that as a consumer there are definitely smart choices to be made even around the hectic holiday months.
On a related/unrelated note, “Food Inc” is a fantastic, disturbing documentary that really encourages the audience to take an active roll in deciding what to eat and which companies to support. There’s a great section describing how poultry is raised and how grain is being monitored, so I think it’s a very relevant movie to watch when there’s going to be so many large meals coming up.