Thanksgiving: Is “mutant turkey” on the menu?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Thanksgiving
Turkeys in a turkey farm

A TYPICAL TURKEY FARM—This photo from Wikimedia Commons shows a flock of “Broad Breasted Whites,” the variety of modified turkeys that comprise the majority of Thanksgiving turkeys sold these days.

At the Thanksgiving table, what’s your choice: White or dark?

How about: Mutant?

Many Americans prefer white meat, and the nation’s poultry producers have learned how to breed large, fast-growing turkeys with lots of breast meat. In fact, today’s turkey is a giant compared to turkeys of yesteryear, reports Mother Jones.

In the 1930s, the average turkey weighed 13.1 pounds. This year, the average turkey weighs 29.8 pounds—and some male turkeys can weigh as much as 50 pounds.

That’s a lot of white meat!

Before the 1950s, the turkeys that found their way to the Thanksgiving dinner table were pretty much the same as wild turkeys. Since then, poultry farmers have breed turkeys to favor genetic traits for large size and fast growth. This results in more white meat, which consumers desire, but also produces birds that are so heavy they can’t support their own weight. Today’s giant turkeys are bowlegged and stooped. They are so big that natural reproduction isn’t possible and artificial insemination must be used.

What’s your opinion of factory farming?

To what extent do farming methods influence your consumption?

What choices do you make regarding Thanksgiving dinner?

Care to read more?

Each year, journalists report on the fate of turkeys nationwide. From an environmental perspective, you might want to read Mother Jones magazine’s first report this autumn, headlined “Butterball Goes ‘Humane for Thanksgiving. Really?“as well as the magazine’s more recent story, “Look How Much Bigger Thanksgiving Turkeys Are Today.” For an even deeper look into the farming and marketing of turkeys—with a stronger environmental slant—check out this story in the environmental magazine, The Grist, headlined “Calling Fowl: How to pick the most humane turkey for Thanksgiving.”

This is sure to spark conversation among family and friends, so … please …

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