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Let's Talk Turkey


For many families, Christmas dinner is the most memorable meal of the year. Itâ??s planned with anticipation, prepared with care and served with lov.

For many families, Christmas dinner is the most memorable meal of the year. It’s planned with anticipation, prepared with care and served with love. What better way to celebrate Christmas than with an organic feast–for the good health of your family and the well-being of the planet that sustains the wider human family to which we all belong.Whether you plan to serve a traditional turkey dinner or a vegetarian holiday meal, consider these reasons for going organic:

  • It’s the only way that we can ensure our foods are free of poisonous chemicals and grown in healthy, mineral-rich soil with the proper balance of nutrients. Organic fruits and vegetables contain more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micronutrients than commercially produced crops.

  • It’s the best way to avoid eating foods that have been modified through genetic engineering. This is a serious concern for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. The use of genetically engineered (GE) plants and seeds is widespread in commercial agriculture, and the majority of livestock on non-organic farms are fed GE soy.

  • Organic farming methods support soil health, nurture the diversity of our wildlife and prevent contamination of our water supplies. Chemically based agriculture, on the other hand, has resulted in serious soil erosion, the near-extinction of several wildlife species and polluted water that compromises human and environmental health.

Choosing organic foods is one of the best ways to spread Christmas cheer and pass it on to future generations.

Organic Turkey Choices

The turkey dinner has long been North America’s traditional holiday meal. In the mid-1600s, the English explorer Sebastian Cabot brought the turkey to Europe from North America. The bird was named after merchants from Turkey who spread its popularity. Today, turkey continues to be a holiday favourite that is also enjoyed throughout the year. The average annual turkey consumption for Canadians is four kilograms (more than 10 pounds) per person.

According to Janine Gibson, president of the Canadian Organic Growers, turkey is one of the best meat choices Canadians can make with respect to both their health and the environment. In contrast to chickens, cattle or pigs, turkeys are seldom reared in confinement. Conventionally reared turkeys, however, are routinely given antibiotics in their feed when they are young poults, and are almost certain to be fed GE-containing feed throughout their lifespan.

Organically raised turkeys, on the other hand, receive no antibiotics, hormones or GE feed. In addition to being raised on organic feed, they are field-grazed on chemical-free grassland, where they can also peck at organic grains and legumes, as well as insects. This healthy, pesticide-free environment naturally promotes the turkeys’ immunity against disease. At Pop’s Farm in Manitoba’s Interlake Region, for instance, great care is taken to ensure the poults grow into healthy, disease-resistant adults. They have access to open pasture and are allowed to roost naturally. This helps to keep their environment stress-free, which promotes a strong immune system and makes antibiotics unnecessary.

The healthy outdoor environment, adequate sunshine, and the exercise the birds get when they run after insects, ensure the highest welfare standards at all times.

Some Like It Wild

If you have a taste for game bird, you may want to try wild turkey for your holiday feast this year. Wild turkeys distinguish themselves from domestic turkeys by their high-keeled breast bones and long legs. In contrast to domestic turkeys, wild turkeys can actually fly. Today’s wild turkey is a descendant of the original "pilgrim turkey." The Aztecs of Mexico were the first to domesticate the turkey, which they valued not only for its tasty flesh, but also for its attractive feathers. Indigenous North Americans, too, appreciated the taste of this bird.

The nutritional profile of wild turkey indicates how healthy the meat was for our ancestors: Wild turkey contains less than half the fat and cholesterol of domestic turkey. Along with wild pheasant and gray partridge, wild turkey has a protein content that is higher than that found in any other type of meat.

Organically reared wild turkeys are allowed to roam in an expansive outdoor environment, where they instinctively claw the earth and feast on the natural prairie vegetation and its elaborate root system. Growth-promoting hormones are strictly prohibited. The birds are allowed to grow slowly and at their natural pace, which greatly improves the flavour of their meat. At the Front-Tier organic wild turkey farm in the Pembina Valley area in Manitoba, for instance, wild turkeys roam free for 25 to 30 weeks prior to reaching their full commercial size, in contrast to conventionally raised domestic turkeys, whose lifespans are considerably shorter at between 14 and 16 weeks.

By keeping their operations small, organic turkey farmers resist the industry trend toward sacrificing quality for quantity and higher profits. This ensures a healthier, tastier product for the consumer, as well as sustainable farming operations that nurture the land and the animals that feed on it.

Where To Buy Organic Turkey

The meat departments in many natural food stores around the country often source organic turkeys from local area farmers. Local foods are best for your health and the environment, as they ensure optimal freshness and the least environmental impact in terms of packaging and transportation. If local organic turkey is not available in your area, your natural foods retailer may be able to source frozen organic wild and domestic turkeys such as those from Pop’s Farm and Front-Tier that are shipped frozen to retail outlets in Canada and the US in temperature-controlled transport trucks.

A Vegetarian Christmas Feast

A traditional meal can taste equally scrumptious with non-traditional ingredients. There are many meatless alternatives to turkey. Vegetarians who avoid meat but love the traditional turkey flavour can find precooked vegetarian holiday dinners that imitate the taste and texture of turkey but are prepared from all-vegetarian (and often vegan–no eggs or dairy) ingredients in natural food stores. Alternatively, there are many ways in which vegetables, tempeh, tofu or seitan (spiced wheat gluten) can be prepared to create nutritious and flavourful holiday meals.

Whether you serve turkey or a vegetarian dinner this Christmas, be sure to make it organic. It is the only way that your holiday meal truly serves the spirit of Christmas–for the love of people and animals, and for goodwill and peace on earth.

Internet Resources for Organics

  • has in-depth information about how domestic and wild organic turkeys are raised and processed. It also features several turkey recipes for the holidays, along with ideas for leftovers.

  • is the Web site of the Canadian Organic Growers–the national information network for organic farmers, gardeners and consumers. Look up their Organic Livestock Handbook, which explains the principles of organic livestock husbandry and includes chapters on animal welfare, nutrition and health care, and converting to organic methods.


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Joshua Duvauchelle

Joshua Duvauchelle