October
28 - 2008

Talkin’ turkey

It’s a few weeks before Thanksgiving, and for the consciously grateful celebrant, it’s time for one thing: Thinking about your main dish.

Somehow, turkey has become synonymous with Thanksgiving. As children, we made our handprints into turkey centerpieces. Heck, even in college, my friends and I won a free pizza by crafting the best turkey in the dorm.

The Thanksgiving turkey has spawned all sorts of spinoffs, from the tofurky to the turducken. The best option for those wanting to low on the hog TVP is to skip the meat entirely — you could serve a Thanksgiving dinner composed solely of side dishes, and honestly, most of us would hardly notice.

Go free-range or better

But if you want to go traditional, consider a free-range, organic or heritage turkey. Traditional poultry often is raised with very little space in closed warehouses. Farmers must declaw or debeak birds to prevent them from hurting each other because of their stress from living in such close quarters. You can learn more about that and the confusing standards for free-range birds here. Even the Humane Society gets in on the act with information to help consumers learn about factory farming and how to lower our impact on the food chain by eating more vegetarian meals.

Be forewarned that if you do choose a free-range bird, you might need to plan ahead. In our area, it’s wise to pre-order from a natural foods store to ensure you get a turkey. And it doesn’t have to be that expensive — while you won’t find any offers for a free bird with a cartload of groceries (what does it say about the animals that they can give them away free?), prices start at not much more than a traditional bird.

What about us?

My family is big on tradition, so we will be cooking a turkey. Mr. Cheap loves the ritual and the rigmarole of brining the turkey the night before so it is moist and delicious.

Last year, while en route to a business meeting in a rural area, we took a wrong turn and saw a warehouse full of turkeys housed in wire boxes barely bigger than their bodies, stacked 12 high. My companions clenched their jaws and tried to pretend they hadn’t seen it. When I mentioned it to my family, Little Cheap burst into tears. So we are sticking to our values (and our promise to Little Cheap to eat only meat that has been raised kindly) and special ordering our bird.

What about you? Grocery-store turkey, free-range bird, tofurky, terducken or fleeing the whole scene?

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