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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5 thoughts on “Talkin’ turkey

  1. erin says:

    Definitely free-range, organic etc. etc. My hubby is the turkey master and this year we will be celebrating with my neice. She grew up in Italy so this will be her first Thanksgiving. It should be fun.

  2. badhuman says:

    We ordered a heritage free range turkey online. Not local but maybe next year. The cost is more but I’d rather not have a prison cell bird on my dinner table and I know the farmer’s need the money.

  3. L'an says:

    Depends on what we’re doing for Thanksgiving. If I’m in charge (meaning, no trips to other family abodes with my veg-friendly side dishes in tow) then I’m leaning towards trying out a “celebration roast” from FieldRoast. (I think that’s their name; they make these phenomenally delicious wheat-meat sausages that you can get at Whole Foods–think “apple sage” sausage, not just the Tofurkey Italian or Kielbasa varieties.)

    Last year another family member was in charge of the turkey, and I talked her into opting for a free-range bird, but the general consensus around the table was “ehh, okay but not worth the cost as far as flavor goes.” Much as I wanted to launch into a lecture about food ethics, I held my tongue. But I’m afraid that less-than-stellar reception last year (which in all honesty, could have had as much to do with the chef as with the bird) may have put the kabosh on honoring my future bird requests, especially since I’m not likely to eat more than a tiny slice…

  4. Riin says:

    I’m vegan and will be spending the day alone. I may make myself some mashed potatoes, vegan gravy, vegan stuffing and some zucchini, or I may just make something fast like stir fried eggplant and noodles. Depends what I feel like.

  5. jessimonster says:

    I’d love to do a free range bird, but I have to check prices. We’ve fallen on really rough financial times in the past few weeks, and I don’t know if we really should be buying any turkey. As long as we still do my mom’s stuffing, I’m good though. Mmmmm… stuffing. It still has chicken in it, but it would be less meat, right? I think one day I will work my way down to vegetarian except for this one day of the year.

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