Organic Consumers Association

TAKE ACTION: Tell Whole Foods to Drop Diestel Turkey!

head shot of two turkeys When you pay more for a turkey product that meets Whole Foods’ (WFM) 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating standard, you probably don’t expect that turkey to contain antibiotic and other drug residues.

You also don't expect the turkeys behind that label to have endured “horrific conditions” in their short lives

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tested Diestel turkey samples and reported finding numerous antibiotics and other drug residues. One of those drugs, Chloramphenicol, is strictly prohibited by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in food production because it’s known to have “severe toxic effects in humans including bone marrow suppression or aplastic anemia in susceptible individuals.” 

TAKE ACTION: Tell Whole Foods please drop Diestel turkey products. 'All Natural' turkeys shouldn't contain drug residues! 

After you send the message to WFM using this form, please call Whole Foods and ask them to drop Diestel Turkey products.

Then click to tweet WFM and post on Whole Foods and Diestel Turkey Facebook pages.

Finally, we’re still trying to find in which states (besides California) WFM sells Diestel Turkey products. Can you check out your local WFM? If you find Diestel Turkey products there, please email and let us know the city and state? And if you've purchased Diestel Turkey in the past, please let us know where, what product, and if the company's advertising played a role in your purchasing decision?

According to an amended complaint filed November 13, against Diestel Turkey Ranch, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) National Residue Program inspected Diestel turkeys on four dates in 2015 and 2016. FSIS reported residues of antibiotics important for human use, veterinary antibiotics, a hormone and other pharmaceuticals.

Animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) brought the action against the privately held Sonora, Calif., turkey producer in the Superior Court of California. DxE is suing Diestel for falsely advertising its turkey products as hormone- and antibiotic-free, and for deceiving consumers about how the company's birds are raised and treated.

According to the lawsuit, Diestel turkey products tested by the USDA were positive for residues of:

  • Ketamine, a narcotic. The Drug Enforcement Agency describes ketamine as “a dissociative anesthetic that has some hallucinogenic effects.” Ketamine’s street names include Special K, Cat Tranquilizer, and Cat Valium, the latter two referencing its veterinary uses, and it is commonly referred to as a club drug because it is used illegally at dance clubs and raves. The FDA has not approved the use of ketamine in poultry.
  • Amikacin, an antibiotic for human use that the FDA considers important for humans
  • Spectinomycin, also an antibiotic for human use
  • Hygromycin, an antibiotic for veterinary use
  • Ipronidazole, also a veterinary pharmaceutical
  • Melengesterol acetate, a synthetic hormone also known as MGA
  • Sulfanitran, an antibacterial drug feed additive

Are Diestel and Whole Foods misleading consumers?

Producers like Diestel, and retailers like Whole Foods, know consumers are willing to pay a premium for hormone-free, antibiotic-free turkeys from farms that have high animal-welfare standards. But what happens when companies make claims that don’t live up to consumer expectations?

Diestel Turkey claims its birds live idyllic lives. On its website, the company says:

All of our whole-body Diestel turkeys are raised under our strict standards. We support our turkeys with a healthy environment, fresh mountain water, and the clean air from the Sierra Nevada Foothills. Our feed never contains fillers, our birds are never given growth stimulants or antibiotics, and we never make compromises when it comes to the quality of the feed.

Whole Foods 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating is intended to differentiate factory farm meet from pasture-raised. The rating not only sets high standards for “the comfort, physical safety and health of the animals,” but also prohibits the use of hormones and antibiotics.

The USDA testing suggests that Diestel is misleading consumers about the use of antibiotics and other drugs on its farms. A nine-month investigation of Diestel Turkey Ranch by DxE suggests Diestel also decieves consumers about how the turkeys it sells are treated before being slaughtered for meat. 

On its website, Diestel says:

We pay close attention to the health of our birds by spending time with them in the fields, observing their behaviors, and making sure they have the best environment possible.

But according to the complaint filed against Diestel, the turkey producer bases those claims on one “picture perfect” farm as its “poster child” farm—but raises most of its turkeys elsewhere, under industrial factory farm conditions.

And that picture-perfect farm is rated Step 5, even though most turkeys do not enjoy those Step 5 conditions.

In reality, DxE said in a 2015 report that the vast majority of the turkeys sold by Diestel are raised under very different conditions than those portrayed by the Diestel website. According to the complaint against Diestel, the DxE investigation found:

  • turkeys raised in over-crowded barns
  • turkeys languishing or dead
  • turkeys suffering from excessive confinement
  • turkeys trapped in feces that covered much of the barn floor, up to one-half foot deep
  • turkeys suffering from swollen-shut eyes, swollen nostrils, open wounds, and/or bruises
  • turkeys missing large patches of feathers as a result of pecking one another and/or de-feathering from extreme stress
  • turkeys routinely subject to debeaking and/or beak-trimming
  • turkeys laboring to breathe in an enclosed barn environment dense with ammonia and particles of dried feces and feathers
  • as many as 7 percent of birds in a barn dying in a single week.

It may be too late for Whole Foods to cancel its Diestel Turkey orders for this year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas season. But let’s let Whole Foods know that if the retailer wants our trust and loyalty, it needs to drop Diestel Turkey before another Thanksgiving rolls around.

In the meantime, here's our Holiday Turkey Buying Guide to help you find an authentic ethically pasture-raised, drug-free turkey.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Whole Foods please drop Diestel turkey products. 'All Natural' turkeys shouldn't contain drug residues!


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