Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bag a Happier Turkey; in the First of Her Weekly Columns, Our New Food Guru on How to Avoid Factory Farmed Horrors and Buy a Perfect Bird

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bag a Happier Turkey; in the First of Her Weekly Columns, Our New Food Guru on How to Avoid Factory Farmed Horrors and Buy a Perfect Bird

Article excerpt

Byline: JOANNA BLYTHMAN

IF you're hoping to eat a flavourful and ethical turkey this Christmas, remember one thing: 85 per cent of British turkey is factory-farmed and no amount of basting and buttering can redeem it. The turkey is, by nature, a semi-wild woodland birds, but it has been transformed into an indoor meat machine, designed to put on pounds of tasteless white breast meat in record time.

These intensive turkeys are now so unnaturally top heavy that they are unable to mate so they have to be artificially inseminated. By the time they are ready for slaughter, it is not uncommon for turkeys to have ulcerated feet or hip injuries.

Animal welfare organisations allege that in some large abattoirs, turkeys are inadequately stunned before they are killed and even plucked while alive.

Such a cruel death would be illegal but a mature turkey can, quite legally, hang upside down shackled by its legs for six minutes waiting on the slaughter line.

Unless you are explicitly told otherwise, assume that the turkey on the supermarket shelf has come from this system. Don't be taken in either by butter-basted turkey joints which promise "extra succulence and flavour".

These usually contain only around 85 per cent meat and about 1.5 per cent butter. The rest is water and additives.

Happily, there are farmers up and down the land fattening splendid specimens for Christmas - and there's still time to bag one. Look out for the traditional flavoursome Cambridge Bronze and Norfolk Black breeds. These are usually reared as free-range so the birds have benefited from healthy outdoor feeding.

Organic turkeys are highly desirable: preventative drugs are banned under organic standards, the birds spend most of their time outside and flock sizes are as small as 200.

Good independent butchers and some specialist food shops offer birds which have been hung for at least a week (as opposed to being plunged into boiling water so that their feathers fall off, which is the battery method) and are more flavourful as a result. …

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