For the last several years our Thanksgiving table has been blessed with a pasture-raised turkey purchased directly from a local farmer.
In fact, we’ve grown to love all of the poultry and beef products that we receive regularly from Josh and his family!
Today I’d like to share with you just a few tips on how to find and buy an organic, free range, or pasture-raised turkey.
Definition of Terms
Frozen factory-farmed turkeys invade grocery stores nationally this time of year!
A couple of reasons:
- Convenience — They are easy to purchase.
- Affordibility — They are inexpensive.
But what’s the problem? And why should we choose a different way?
Here’s the difference as I understand it.
Did you know that two percent of livestock farms now raise 40 percent of all animals in the US. That fact is shocking!
This level of production is made possible by the government’s creation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s). According to the EPA, CAFO’s are defined as, “operations where animals have been, are, or will be stabled or confined and fed or maintained for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period and where vegetation is not sustained in the confinement area during the normal growing season.”
This term gives us little indication regarding the living conditions of the bird…but rather speaks more to its’ diet and processing.
Turkeys sold as certified organic are fed organic feed. Likewise, they are raised without the use of antibiotics, harsh chemicals, and hormones. And generally there are no additives used for processing.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) free range “producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.”
No further specifications are given.
All animals, not just turkeys, raised on pesticide-free pastures can dramatically reduce the environmental impact much more so than that of their grain-fed, factory farmed counterparts.
The American Grassfed Association (AGA) defines grassfed products “from ruminants, including cattle, bison, goats and sheep, as those food products from animals that have eaten nothing but their mother’s milk and fresh grass or grass-type hay from their birth.”
Pasture-raised turkeys should be:
- raised 100% on organic pasture and never fed grain or grain-supplements.
- never supplemented with antibiotics, harsh chemicals, and hormones.
- treated humanely and with respect.
- allowed to live their lives completely on grasslands.
So why aren’t all turkeys raised in this manner?
It’s all comes down to economics. When turkeys are allowed to develop this way — in their natural environment — they require extra time and care equaling higher costs and slower levels of production.
My most favorite term!
All of this truly means very little if you don’t know your farmer…
…and I care deeply for the local farmer.
Look local first — it’s the best option in so many ways!
My favorite sites to search for local foods and education on the topic are:
- SustainableTable.org — Click here for a great list of questions to ask your local farmer about their product.
Now it’s your turn! Please share your tips for buying your organic, free range, or local pasture-raised turkey!