This little ditty from the Pew Environmental Group details what has become of the American Turkey farming tradition with the advent of industrial farming. Like other animals, such as chicken, beef cattle and pigs, turkeys today are raised in confined feedlots (CAFOs) under horrible conditions. The birds produce ungodly amounts of manure in these concentrated production operations and use enormous amounts of water, with adverse environmental effects and pollution resulting. Furthermore, the turkeys are fed GMO corn and soy grain as opposed to their natural grass and vegetable-based diet. Antibiotics are also used liberally in CAFO's to prevent the spread of disease in the unsanitary dwellings that the birds inhabit. All of this is not intended to create despair but rather to underscore that we all have the opportunity to influence these issues by voting with our pocket books. If you are troubled by the state of industrial agriculture and livestock production then you can act by supporting local farmers when possible. Every dollar spent on local or organic products makes a difference and will ultimately help to change the practices of industrial producers. Money and markets are all that matter to these operations and they will respond to the preferences of consumers. One need only to look as far as Europe where familiar name brand products are produced without GMOs for sale on that continent because the people there have demanded labeling of all products containing GMOs there.
It's too late to order a heritage breed turkey for this season but you may want to check out this site and order a Bourbon Red or other traditional bird that is sustainably raised in the future. I recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and learned about many remarkable heritage livestock breeds as well as the inspiring growth of sustainable farming, centered around non-hybrid and non-GMO heirloom seeds, taking place around the country.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle website.