Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Holiday Turkey Buying Guide

Download a printable PDF of this guide here.

Want a fresh, pasture-raised organic turkey for the holidays? A turkey raised ethically and humanely? Uncontaminated with drug residues, and not fed GMO feed?

It’s estimated that Americans eat 46 million turkeys at Thanksgiving, and another 22 million at Christmas. The majority of those turkeys—raised in filthy, over-crowded factory farms—are contaminated with antibiotics  and other drug residues.

Thankfully, consumers have choices. By boycotting factory farm turkey and choosing healthy alternatives, consumers can create greater demand for humanely raised, pasture-raised turkey.

Here’s where to look:

• LocalHarvest.org To find a holiday turkey, simply enter “turkey” and your zip code. You can even buy turkeys through the site. But don’t limit your search to what you can buy online. Instead of hitting the “shop” button, click on the names of the farms for complete descriptions. You’ll get farms’ contact information and lists of their products.

• EatWild.com Click “Shop for Local Grassfed Meat, Eggs & Dairy” to find a directory of pastured products. There’s a Google map for each state. When you find yours, click the search icon and enter “turkey” to find descriptions of farms near you, along with their contact information.

Too late? No time to find a farmer? If you miss your chance to get a fresh turkey from the farm, or you’re reading this the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas, on the way to the grocery store, here’s what to look for:

USDA Organic: This is the best option in the grocery store. Organic turkeys are raised on a 100% organic diet. These turkeys are fed organic grains that haven’t been genetically engineered or sprayed with pesticides. They aren’t given antibiotics, ractopamine or any other growth-promoting animal drugs. 

A store-bought organic turkey could have one main difference from an organic turkey raised by your local farmer: Unless it also says “pasture-raised,” the store-bought organic turkey may have spent most of its life indoors. The organic rules require animals to have access to the outdoors, but they aren’t always well enforced. An updated rule providing much-needed clarity was finalized in the Obama administration, but has been held up this year.

Certified Humane: If organic isn’t available, look for “Certified Humane” turkeys, which weren’t given animal byproducts or antibiotics. 

No Antibiotics: This claim isn’t as strong without the third-party verification that USDA Organic and Certified Humane guarantee, but, if truthful, it’s important. Turkeys raised without antibiotics are a lot less likely to be contaminated with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can cause hard-to-treat urinary tract infections or typhoid fever.

Some companies may use claims that sound great but are not actually regulated. These claims may be misleading, giving the impression that the turkeys were raised to a high standard of health and welfare when in reality they are from intensive factory-style systems. 

Here are some label claims to beware of: 

Natural, Cage-Free, No Hormones, No Steroids: These claims are meaningless. There are no hormones or steroids approved for use on turkeys. Turkeys are never raised in cages. “Natural” just means minimally processed.

Thanks for seeking out healthier and more humane turkeys for your holiday table!

Happy holidays!

Source: Organic Consumers Association 

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