Is there a difference between local all natural pasture raised turkeys and industrial raised store bought turkeys? The simple answer is yes and the proof is in the taste and texture of the meat but that isn’t something that can be described very well so you will have to try that for yourself. The biggest difference is what you can’t see and in some cases even taste.
let’s take a look at what the industrial raised store bought turkeys are all about first. I will give you some of the main highlights of how they are grown since most of us have never seen what goes on in a large turkey operation. Most of these birds are grown in large buildings with very little ventilation so the air quality isn’t good at all and many of the turkeys deal with respiratory problems due to the air quality. This problem is offset with antibiotics to help keep the birds alive. They are packed in tight pens with very little space which even enhances the respiratory problems. There rarely is any kind of natural lighting and what artificial lighting there is is not sufficient. For the most part they live in very filthy conditions. They eat a ration of grain that contains some sort of the antibiotics I mentioned before and the grain is usually transported hundreds of miles since the turkey farms are not usually placed near where the grain is produced. The grain is grown with genetically modified seeds (GMO) and the problem with this is that so far every study done with GMO has shown health issues in the test animals from cancer tumors to infertility and birth defects. Also the GMO crops have to be grown with numerous herbicides and pesticides. So basically the turkeys get a feed that is altered and very nutrient poor with some chemical residue mixed in.
If the turkey’s growing conditions are not bad enough the butchering process isn’t any better for them. Even the certified organic or free range birds go through this same process. The birds are often transported hundreds of miles to a processing plant where they are first electrocuted before being bled out. The problem with that is the central nervous system is shut down so now the heart can’t pump the blood out of the body. Once the birds are killed they go through a mechanical process of evisceration that breaks open the internal organs and contaminates the meat with internal fluids. Now the contaminated carcasses go through a series of chlorine baths to clean and disinfect them. These baths get filthy and so the meat absorbs some of this sludge water and chlorine. Most store bought poultry actually says 10 to 15% retained water. They just don’t tell you what is in the water but don’t worry all the chlorine will protect you. Now the packaged birds travel hundreds of more miles to get to the stores so now they have many miles under them that adds to the overall cost of the turkey in the stores. Ok, enough of the bad news now let’s get to the good stuff!
Our turkey poults (baby turkeys) start out on a clean bedding of wood shavings where we give them a grain ration that is not genetically modified and is free of chemical residue. They are kept nice and warm with lots of room to move around and fresh air in the brooder (baby turkey pen). Once the turkey poults are big enough we put them out on pasture in portable pens that we move twice a day to keep them on fresh grass. This gives them a clean environment with plenty of sunshine and fresh air. We don’t have to give them antibiotics because they stay healthy and strong with a good immune system. They get to enjoy lush green grass and bugs that keep them happy and active.
Small scale processing
We do all our turkey processing here so they never have to be transported a long distance and go through the stress of being crated and shipped down the road. We do a quick clean kill where the turkeys are placed in a cone like container so they are held firmly and can’t trash around and injure themselves. We make a quick cut to the jugular vein where they bleed out quickly and completely. The time from the cut to unconscious due to loss of blood pressure is only a few seconds. We eviscerate each bird by hand and make certain no internal organs are ruptured to contaminate the meat. The rinsed off clean birds are placed in clean non chlorinated ice water to chill. Every turkey is bagged by hand to insure quality control as we get to handle and check each one before it goes into a bag.
A great way of life
As you can see there is a big difference in the way a turkey can be raised and processed. Now that you know the difference it is up to you to decide which turkey growing model you want to support. I know everyone can’t come get one of our beautiful birds but I encourage you to look around and seek a local pasture based farm near you that can supply you with quality, healthy, ethically, humanely, sustainable raised and process food. It is a great way of life for the farmer, turkeys, and customer.
If you live in or near North central Pennsylvania and want to see what we have to offer just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be glad to answer any questions you have. You may also want to check out our store page to see pricing and ordering info on turkeys and other products. If you don’t live near us and can’t find a local farmer near you to get fresh pasture raised turkeys you can check out an online option at our page where to buy grass fed meat for an option.
Hope this information helps and we would love to hear your comments so feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks!