Group of turkeys. | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Turkey Doomsday

Investigations have found that many large-scale poultry farms keep their birds intentionally overweight and injected with hormones.

Investigations have found that many large-scale poultry farms keep their birds intentionally overweight and injected with hormones

Turkey Day is tomorrow, but people don’t always take the time to think about the farm to table process that leads to the birds ending up on our dinner plates.

According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, “95% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised in factory farms,” with other sources, such as the Huffington Post, claiming numbers to be up to 99%.

Factory farming has proven to be a profitable business, with the United States Department of Agriculture stating that there are approximately 2 million farms in operation.

Poultry makes up a significant size of the income from animals, second only to calves and cattle.

“Cash receipts for animals and animal products totaled 176.5 billion in 2018,” the USDA’s site says. “Cattle/calf receipts accounted for 38 percent of that total, while poultry/egg receipts accounted for 26 percent and dairy receipts 20 percent.”

Some of the problems associated with factory farming include the health of the animals and their living arrangements.

Investigations have found that many large-scale poultry farms keep their birds intentionally overweight and injected with hormones, only to be forced into tight cages until they are killed.

“Due to selective breeding, commercial male turkeys rapidly grow to a weight 3 times larger than wild male turkeys in only 4 months,” Farm Sanctuary, an animal protections agency formed in 1986, states on their website. “Rapid growth and resulting heavy body weight can lead to heart problems and painful leg issues, which can eventually lead to crippling.”

In 2017, The New York Times’ Editorial Board took a stand against factory-farmed poultry.

“No animals raised on factory farms are kept and killed under worse conditions than turkeys and chickens, which make up most of the animals raised for food in the U.S.,” the editorial said. “Nearly 9 billion chickens are slaughtered each year for food. And because poultry is exempt from the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture enforces, there are not even minimum federal standards governing how they live or die.”

The Times continued their editorial, detailing how the “so-called broiler chickens” are genetically bred to grow fast, due to the demand for breast meat. According to the Times, these chickens grow so large that they can barely walk, suffering from painful skeletal disorders and deformities before they are killed.

“The vast majority spend their short lives (about 47 days for chickens) in artificially lit, windowless, barren warehouse barns,” the editorial said. “So that turkeys won’t peck one another in these crowded barns, their beaks are painfully trimmed.”

In Humboldt County, if you’re looking to avoid commercial, warehouse-raised poultry, one option is the Shakefork Community Farm. The farm raises small batches of turkeys every summer and fall.

According to their site, Shakefork’s poultry is raised and slaughtered sustainably; raising their birds in open ranges as opposed to tight cages, believing in a more humane approach to raising animals.

“We provide certified organic laying feed, but our hens provide for much of their own nutrition by foraging for seeds, bugs, and pasture,” the site says. “Our healthy and contented birds make for some of the best eating ever.”

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