Each Thanksgiving, 46 million turkeys are consumed. But how many of those turkeys were ethically-sourced? Buying ethically-sourced turkeys means valuing the animal’s life and well-being until the very end. Therefore we recommend you really think about where your turkey is coming from this year. That is unless you are vegetarian or vegan. If you are a vegan or vegetarian power to you. We hope you enjoy these plant-based Thanksgiving recipes we’ve compiled for you.
For our non-vegan or vegetarian friends, we will go through each of the labels likely to be on the turkey you encounter itself, the meaning of each one, and a few sustainable places to shop for your turkey this Thanksgiving. Enjoy!
The Organic Label
A USDA-certified organic label on your turkey means that the turkey was fed crops 100% free of GMOs, chemicals, and pesticides. It also means that the turkey was not given any antibiotics or hormones and was raised in fair conditions.
For future reference, if a product simply says “organic,” that means that of the ingredients used for produce, 95% were organic. If it says “made with organic ingredients,” that means that 70% of the product has to contain organic ingredients. Both “organic” and “made with organic ingredients” products may contain the USDA organic label, as long as they truly comply with the guidelines.
Another claim that you may encounter while shopping for your Thanksgiving side dishes or desserts is an item having “specific organic ingredients.” This means that less than 70% of its ingredients are certified organic and it may specify which ingredients are organic or its total percentage of organic ingredients in its ingredient list, but it cannot use the label. Lastly, this should not be confused with the USDA Grade labels, commonly found on turkeys sold in supermarkets.
The Free-range or Free-roaming Label
Free-range, contradictory to its name, actually only requires that turkeys are allowed to roam freely for half of their lives. That means that the other half of their lives could have been spent living in inhumane conditions. Therefore, when buying free-range turkeys, it is important to look for the Certified HumaneⓇ label as well. This label ensures that the turkey was in fact raised in healthy, good living conditions. Note that free-range turkeys are very different from the controversial CAFO-raised turkeys.
The Pasture-Raised Label
A pasture-raised turkey is a turkey that is raised on a pasture, or piece of well-kept grassland. They are only exposed to what nature has to offer for food, meaning they eat lots of berries, bugs, etc. A good way of assuring that the bird was pasture-raised is to look for a Global Animal Partnership label and the number stamped on it. The numbers on this label range from 1-5+, with 5+ being the best.
Additionally, it is important to note that there are different breeds of turkeys sold around Thanksgiving. Each of these different breeds has slightly different tastes. For instance, if you prefer richer, more developed flavors, then heritage turkeys may be for you. If you’re more of a simple fellow, then perhaps you would enjoy the common broad breasted turkey.
All in all, we hope that you now feel confident when shopping for your sustainable turkey, if you choose to have turkey for your meal. In order to make this shopping experience even easier, below we have listed three locations that we recommend checking when buying your humanely-raised turkey this year.
5 Sustainable Places to Buy Your Turkey
1. Your Local Farm
Driving up to your local farm or ordering from them helps your local economy and assures you that the birds were raised in a transparent manner (that is, depending on the farm and the certifications they have).
2. Your Local Market
Shopping at your local market is a great way to support your community and keep smaller companies running. Additionally, many local markets do carry seasonal foods such as Thanksgiving turkey. Just be sure that when you find your desired turkey it complies with your preferred eco-friendly labels.
3. Through A Farm-Share Or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
If neither of the first two options appealed to you, a farm-share may be your new favorite shopping method. A farm-share, or CSA, is a subscription service to your local farm over a set period of time. It can be especially handy if you can’t make it to the farm in-person.
The length and frequency of your delivery service are up to you, but a CSA is a great way to receive seasonal, local, good quality fruits and vegetables. Most CSA services give the consumers the option of choosing a half share rather than a full share, thus lower amounts of food are likely to be wasted. Find your local farm-share here.
4. At the Grocery Store
You might be surprised that your local grocery store (or warehouse store) probably stocks turkeys that carry some of the certifications we mentioned earlier.
While we’re big proponents of shopping small, when you shop with the “big guys” and choose to purchase a product that is responsibly sourced, you send a message to corporate headquarters: conscious consumerism is here to stay.
5. From an Eco-Conscious Subscription Box
Like we’ve mentioned above, sourcing sustainable meat can be a bit tricky. If you don’t have a good place to find a responsibly raised turkey that’s close by, subscription boxes like ButcherBox can be a good option. All of their cows, chickens, turkeys, and pigs are raised humanely and sustainably. At Brightly, we also appreciate that their packaging minimizes waste and is recyclable whenever possible.
Okay, now you are fully ready to become one with sustainability when shopping for your next turkey. We hope you found the information in this article useful and feel confident about conquering the big dinner. And if you wanna learn how to cut down your Thanksgiving waste, check out our article on how to have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving.
Lastly, our Brightly team wants to thank you for being a part of our family and helping us fulfill our environmental mission. Have a loving and safe Thanksgiving holiday.