With Thanksgiving coming up, much of the nation’s focus turns to turkey and how the animal gets to the Thanksgiving table. Growing up on, and still living near, a turkey farm, I can tell you that most people have no idea of what happens.
If you could care less about what happens on a turkey farm, skip this post. If you are curious this time of year about your traditional meal, then here you go, have at it.
First of all, the month of November is no more or no less busy on a turkey farm. The demand may be higher in the supermarket, but that has no affect on how many turkeys are on a certain farm at a certain time. The only impact it has on a local farmer is having to deal with media coming by to ask questions and film turkeys.
The turkeys come in to the farms being only a few days old. They are put in wire mesh pens with plenty of food (pellets similar to most other farm animal’s food) and water (which is filled with vitamins and medicines to keep them healthy). They are kept in the pens because that keeps them close to a heat source – gas brooders hanging above the pens. If they are let out too early, they will freeze to death or at least get sick even if it is warm outside.
At a certain age, when they can handle the elements better, they are let out of their pens and allowed to roam around the entire building, which can be about 50-100 yards long.
Some farmers keep the birds until they are ready to go to slaughter, but others keep them only half the time and then ship them to another farm to finish growing them out.
Despite what PETA people may think, the animals are not mistreated at the farms. I remember seeing these emaciated turkeys in PETA literature and thinking how stupid the “animal-rights” people must be. A skin and bones turkey does not have much meat on it, therefore it does not bring the farmer any money. The farmer wants the turkeys to be as healthy and big as possible.
Before they arrive to the farms, the turkeys are debeaked and declawed for their own protection. If they were not, they would kill each other. Wild turkeys (the brown kind with the colorful tails) are a very smart animal. Domestic turkeys (the white kind) are idiots and usually kill other turkeys, especially ones with injuries or abnormally small. Not having a sharp beak or claws lets more of them survive and grow.
Farmers can grow out hens (females) or toms (males), but they will only have one sex at a time. Hens are more docile and do not grow as large. The full grown toms can really do some damage, especially if they escape with their claws, as is the case sometimes. I have the scratches and scars to prove it.
When they are fully grown they are shipped out on large transfer trucks. The turkeys are moved from the back of the house to the front and up a conveyor belt, where someone places half a dozen or so in a small cage. From here they go to the slaughter houses and you know the rest.
Despite growing up on the farm, I have never had a taste for turkey. While other people anxiously await the big meal, I always wish someone would bring some chicken.
So regardless of whether you like turkey or not, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you spend time with your family and friends. I hope you enjoy your time away from work (if you get it). Most of all, regardless of whether you want to or not, I hope you realize that we cannot have Thanksgiving without Someone to thank.
The early settlers realized that they needed to thank the One who was responsible for their survival. I am thankful to God for all his blessings and even the trials because they draw me closer to Him. Have a great holiday.