Thursday, October 25, 2012

What rhymes with Turkey? Murky...jerky...Albuquerque...

I have been thinking. About turkeys.

Part of that is seasonal: it has been on my mind, as Tara Firma Farms has been sending me notes about reserving one of their pastured turkeys for Thanksgiving. As someone who usually goes to a residence where the turkey is provided, buying a turkey is not something I usually think about.

To be honest, the last time I "bought" a turkey, I don't even know if it counts. I was in college, and Nugget Markets offered Turkey Bucks with your purchases. My roomies and I all pooled our bucks, and I think we ended up "earning" two 20 lb. behemoths. Gobble gobble!

So in my previous life, turkey has always been free. Per my meat CSA, a pastured bird was a $50 deposit, plus more if we ended up with a serious fatty. And the way my family traditionally cooks turkey, it would end up submerged in peanut oil, which seemed- unfortunate- and then stuffed with a grain-based stuffing. Their house, their rules. Plus, I am not a "turkey fan", really. So I didn't rationalize pulling the trigger.

But: I started reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", and her chapter about turkeys brought me up short.

Evidently, 99% of modern turkeys bred for meat are all the same variety. They are known for being amazingly stupid, and they have been bred for docility and a tendency to put on massive amounts of weight, particularly around the breast region (woo woo!) and to do it all with corn and soy meal.

Evidently, they are so large and docile, they will not have sex, and must be artificially inseminated.This is especially important because they can't survive much more than a year anyway: much beyond that, they get so heavy, that their legs will be unable to support their own weight.

I was reading this to SG in a tone of righteous outrage, and evidently, he has been there, done that. "It was on 'Dirty Jobs'!" he chuckled. "Turkey sperm collector was one of the dirty jobs." Holy crap!!!

If that's not a macabre portrait of what's happening to America, I don't know what is. To the government, and the people who control our food, we are the turkeys.

These animals have been bred for this, generation after generation. It really disturbs me that we are eating a bird that is so highly specialized and inbred, it can't survive or reproduce on its own. It reminds me of the "Chickie Nobs" from Oryx and Crake: (another amazing book, if you haven't read it).

  Compare this with the wild turkeys I see around here. They are smart enough to avoid being hit by cars or eaten by coyotes or vagrant Labradoodles: and smart enough to be considered aggressive when threatened. (The ones in my backyard are also smart enough to live in Marin County, where people wouldn't dream of quietly shooting them in the tailfeathers and serving them up as dinner- except for bloodthirsty little old me.)

The turkeys you see in every Thanksgiving illustration: the vivid wattle, and variegated plumage- right? Sadly, that's not what is on the table, minus feathers, head, and other sundry accoutrements.

These are the turkeys 99% of us eat at Thanksgiving.

The video below will give you even more incentive to try to locate a wild or pastured turkey- if only to protect the nice lady at your local news affiliate. Suddenly, I am realizing where they got the inspiration for the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

Food for thought. I'll be calling to place my order tomorrow. 

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