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Happy Turkeys For Us


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The roll of her eyes was unmistakable.

“You want to spend how much on a turkey?” my puzzled mother asked.

“About 30 bucks,” I replied.

“But Butterballs are only five bucks.”

“It’s worth the extra cost. Just think of the turkeys!”

Her reaction wasn’t much different than when I started a seven-year stretch of vegetarianism a decade ago. “You don’t want to eat meat anymore? But why? I don’t get it,” she quizzed. “Does fish count?”

Those were some difficult Thanksgivings, with my family members struggling to find a centerpiece meal for me that didn’t include turkey or sausage stuffing cooked inside the bird. Needless to say, mom and dad rest a little easier now that I eat turkey again—and I just make sure it’s a free-range bird that produces what a friend dubs “happy meat.”

Back to the confused mother. She’s been pretty darn content each year with the same turkey her mother likely bought during her childhood Thanksgivings. When the family came to my Denver home two years ago for the holiday dinner, I did my best to convince her that the added expense would make a difference.

The logic of going free range is definitely a head-scratcher for some. Convincing non-believers, such as my family, can prove difficult. In the end, the turkey is having its head lopped off, after all. How humane is that?

But think of the days, weeks and years leading up to their demise. It may be naive to think these birds are living in luxury akin to “The Fabulous Lifestyles of Turkeys,” but for the un-initiated, free-range turkeys are raised on farms that allow access to the outside. Seems like that should be a given, but it’s not, especially at large turkey farms that make the bulk of their profits each November.

Do a bit more research and find Thanksgiving centerpiece that is certified organic and antibiotic free (Whole Foods is a good place to start). You’ll be serving a bird fed a robust vegetarian diet that didn’t include what makes Major League Baseball players hit homeruns with the frequency of stoplights turning red during rush hour. That’s a good thing, by the way.

So come Thanksgiving this year, I’ll champion once again for one of those happy turkeys, even if it means financing it on the Amex.

Granted, there are plenty out there who argue that even my beloved free-range birds still live a life of relative confinement and are in fact murdered. Since the world isn’t going vegetarian anytime soon, at least pick the farms that implore the best practices possible.

Beyond that, I swear the turkey tastes so much better. Maybe the added flavor is all in my head; thinking about turkeys prancing around pristine open space makes for a better meal. Either way, each bite just hits the spot that much more (and the meat is typically a little more lean).

I give bonus points for adding a few pieces of organic bacon to the top of the bird while it roasts. Yes it adds calories and a little fat, but the taste is worth it.

So when we’re at my dinner table this year saying our thanks, I’ll be thankful for a natural centerpiece to our meal. Images of turkeys dancing in freedom will fill my head. And I’m pretty sure the bird would tell us he’s happy he lived a good life—at least for a little while.

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