Source a Sustainably Raised Turkey for Thanksgiving

More than 250 million turkeys are slaughtered in the industrial system each year in the United States, and about 46 million of those are for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful, warm holiday, full of family time, great traditions and good food. Unfortunately, there are many not-so-good things about the Thanksgiving turkeys most grocery stores offer to their customers.

The status quo for raising turkeys and other meat birds is the industrial, factory farming system. The conditions in which factory farmed turkeys are raised is horrendous. It’s cramped, with each bird†given about 3 feet of space to live its life. So that these cramped and stressed turkeys won’t turn to pecking at each other, prior to confinement their beaks and the tips of their toes are cut off (processes some liken to having the tips of a child’s fingers and toes chopped off). These turkeys, raised in gigantic warehouses, are denied their natural instincts and can’t eat their natural diet of seeds, vegetation and insects. They’re also bred to grow so rapidly that it puts an incredible strain on their bodies. Some researchers estimate that factory farmed turkeys spend at least a third of their lives in chronic pain.

The good news is that there are plenty of farmers out there raising turkeys naturally on pastureóand with respect. To find a healthy, delicious turkey that was ethically and sustainably raised for your Thanksgiving table, check out these resources:

Search Eat Wild’s state directory of farmers. Simply click on your state on the yellow map and read about farmers selling turkeys, other meats, eggs and dairy products from pastured animals in your area.

You can also search Local Harvest for farmers selling pastured turkeys in your area.

Another simple option is to stop by a farmers market this weekend and see whether any of the vendors are taking orders for Thanksgiving turkeys.

For related tips, please visit Welcome to Our (Sustainable) Thanksgiving Table.

For vegetarian Thanksgiving alternatives, see the following Care2 articles:
Have a Vegan Thanksgiving
Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes
A Bird-Free Thanksgiving Feast

Photo by Fotolia/msheldrake


Penny C.
penny C5 years ago

Thanks for this.

Jane Mckenzie
Jane Mckenzie5 years ago

I agree with the views here but when you don't have enough money to feed your family - human welfare comes before animal welfare. Could your government subsidise ehtically produced turkeys so everyone can afford them?

Lindsay Kemp
Lindsay K5 years ago

Thanks for posting.

John S.
Past Member 5 years ago


Yulan Lawson
Yulan Lawson5 years ago

Happy thanksgiving.

Marina Arteaga
Marina Arteaga5 years ago


Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago


Dale Overall

Past Member, kindly mind your own asparagus and refrain from telling me what not to eat on Thanksgiving. If you don't wish to eat turkey by all means portobellos are one way to go. Having had Canadian Thanksgiving in October, the turkey was delicious. Not all turkeys are factory farm produced and let us face it, even veggies still die to ensure a hearty meal. Even if they are not sentient beings they still face elimination to celebrate a holiday. Empathy is relatively easy when life forms eaten resemble ourselves, not so easy when plant life which brings so much to the planet.

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey5 years ago

I brine my own bird in a large wash tub(plastic). I will never go back to just a plain old oven baked bird. The juiciness and flavor can't be matched. Just be careful not to let stay in the brine too long or the meat will be mushy instead of very tender. Its the leftovers that I am always trying to find ways to deal with. My favorite is a simple hash made with the leftovre stuffing and turkey. I change the flavor of the dish by adding some bell peppers(chopped) and chopped jalapenos, and freshly chopped onion. Combine together with some of the leftover meat. Pat together in a saute pan and brown the mixture with 1/2 cup of light cream poured around the edges. Flip, brown the other side, top with jalapeno jack cheese till melted and a little cilantro and there you have a filling nutritious newly flavored leftovers dish.

Colleen Prinssen
Colleen Prinssen5 years ago

wild? sometimes a flock/herd of 20 will walk down the road.