Turkey is often called the "healthy meat" but is it really?

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'Turkeys are reared motherless on factory farms, in buildings in which the dimensions of time and space are reduced to monotonous extensions of toxic waste devoid of comfort, colours, and novelty, and which are filled with thousands of sick, dead, and dying birds stretching along a floor farther than the eye can see".   Aussie Turkey Farming

The 5 million turkeys raised and killed in Australia are subjected to the same horrific methods of factory farming as chickens and ducks. They live in cramped, over-stocked conditions, with 15,000 individuals per large barren shed, with only the space of an A3 sheet of paper to themselves and endure painful mutilations of their beaks and toes. The sheds are lit with dimmed artificial lighting, devoid of anything from the natural environment such as fresh air, natural light or earth beneath their feet. The sheds become filthy, as they are left uncleaned during the 3 month period of the birds short life ,with the build up of feathers, faeces and urine; becoming so dusty and full of ammonia that they often suffer pulmonary and bacterial diseases.

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Photos from an Australian turkey farm

They are routinely fed antibiotics as disease is rife in these conditions, killing off 10% of the turkeys in 3 months before they even reach the slaughterhouse. To me, it is a warning sign that the standard of the meat from these birds really isn't healthy and good quality.

When looking at the bigger picture, research indicates that the more antibiotics are used, the more antibiotic resistant bacteria and viruses will become - this applies to us humans as well as the animals. This is of great concern! I avoid taking antibiotics generally but they are life saving medicines and we are rendering them less effective for when really needed!  Sweden and Denmark have set a precedent by banning the use of antibiotics in commercial farming.

Even though in nature a turkey is an insectivore, in intensive farms they are fed a diet of meat, sawdust and leather tannery by-products.

Another red flashing light for me is the fact that turkeys today cannot bred by themselves! Completely unnatural methods are needed for them to even be alive. Call me crazy, but I don't feel comfortable recommending eating an anima l-a whole genetic bred of animal-which is not healthy enough to reproduce.

The following description is a little detailed, but I think some attention on this issue is called for....

There are two main commercial breeds of turkey in Australia, the Nicholas White and the Hybrid. The "genetic material" of these breeds is imported from the US and Canada. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, without artificial insemination performed by humans, this variety of bird would become extinct in just one generation.

The male turkeys are 'milked'. A worker holds down the turkey in a bent-over position and then grabs the turkey's penis, stroking and masturbating it until it ejaculates. The semen is collected, laced with extenders (a liquid to preserve fertilising ability) and antibiotics, and then injected via syringe into the female turkey.

This is repeated once or twice a week until the breeder turkeys are slaughtered at one year of age.  Australian prohibits sexual contact with animals but farm animals are excluded from these laws because sexual contact is needed for artificial insemination procedures - this also does not sit right with me on a deeper level.

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Above photo: The "milking" process

There is also often cruelty in their death too. The turkeys are shackled and pass through an electrical water bath - which immobilises them but does not render them unconscious - and they then have their necks cut by a sharp rotating blade. Turkeys should be stunned and bled out prior to the scalding tanks to remove feathers, but mutliple undercover investigations have shown that the turkeys resist and move and due to their size can often miss the steps of the bath, the stunning and the cut and then end up in the boiling tank while wide awake.

There have also been undercover investigations exposing cruelty in the turkey slaughter houses such as at the Ingham processing plant which Lateline reported on.

Overall I don't consider an animal that is genetically engineered, can only be bred artificially, raised in filth, with no mother, no access to nature, fed a unhealthy diet with antibiotics and often disease ridden, to be a healthy option of food.

The vast majority of turkey, (over 95%) is raised this way. Part two to this post will look at option of heritage and organic turkey breeds.