Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to Find Heritage Turkeys and Other Green Thanksgiving Tips

Just caved and ordered a fresh antiobiotic-free, family-farmed Diestel turkey from my local Whole Foods, which also sells Mary's heirloom and organic birds. I was going to order a frozen organic from my food co-op, Kokua Natural Foods, but given my pre-holiday work deadlines, I couldn't trust myself to defrost safely in time. I confess, I view this choice as a lesser evil, because although Diestel's is not a huge industrial factory farm, I can't rely on "free range" or "humane" claims unless they're backed up with third-party-verified seals such as Certified Humane, which forbid cruel practices such as debeaking. When Whole Foods rolls out its long-anticipated Global Animal Partnership ratings for animal welfare later this year, we'll see how they rate the companies whose products they sell.

I compromised, because stress does not make for a holiday! I personally know two women who literally broke their backs while taking 20-lb. Thanksgiving turkeys from the oven. That’s not sustainable! Although I like to eat turkey, as a child I was disturbed by the mass seasonal slaughter and the deadening conformity of nearly every household’s cooking and eating the same thing on the same day.

Now I realize that what I actually oppose are industrial factory farms, and thecommodification of what was originally a local and spiritual feast of thanks for good fellowship and food.

Below are a few ideas for sustaining yourself, your community and the planet.

* Give to the hungry. Donate dollars to non-profit organizations in your community that serve free meals to the needy. For where to take food, locate your local food bank, participating supermarkets and other distribution channels through Feeding America.

* Eat out if you like. While cooking whole foods at home most days is better for the budget and health, it’s a holiday! Don’t break your back.

To find a green restaurant near you that serves local and sustainably produced food, type in your zip code at Eat Well Guide. Within 20 miles of my Honolulu home I found 12 restaurants ranging from gourmet Alan Wong’s to health food bars.

Eat conformity-free. “My brother and I decided to eat out and only eat desserts. We'll skip the turkey, dressing and side dishes,” writes my friend Julio Vega, a creative director and book designer in New York City. I feel lighter already!

* Find local produce and animal products, farmers’ markets and farm stands at Local Harvest

*Vegetables can make the meal, and not just for vegans.

Thanks to Paul Rauber, senior editor at Sierra Magazine, for sharing “my fabulous brussel sprout side dish that even brussel sprout haters like. Trim ends off sprouts, slice thinly. Saute in brown butter (or just butter) until they begin to brown. Add stock to not even cover, plus roasted walnuts or pecans. Cook maybe 5 minutes, squeeze on a spritz of lemon, and there you go. It's from Alice Waters' Vegetables. Have a great day!”

And why not stuff a squash instead of a bird? My Aunt Claire makes a succulent roast pumpkin filled with apples, cranberries, raisins, nuts and grains. Check out these recipes at .

Food for thought: “Animal, Vegetable, Miserable,” by vegan philosopher Gary Steiner, in the Sunday New York Times.

* Turkey shopping? Choose heritage, organic and/or certified humane. Call your local natural and health food supermarkets.

Heritage birds are registered breeds such as the Narragansett, the first domesticized turkey in the U.S. Buying them helps preserve a diverse gene pool. Plus, they’re able to breed naturally, unlike the industrial Broad-Breasted Bronzes or Whites, whose bodies are too heavy and legs too short for sport. Your bird might also be a Bourbon Red, White Holland, Royal Palm, or Standard Bronze. We got a Bourbon Red from Mary’s Turkeys. We could tell because it’s, ahem, flat-chested, lacking the “high, raised keel bone” that characterizes a Naragansett, according to Mary.

Thinking ahead to December, you can order heritage poultry, meat, wine, and artisanal cheeses through Heritage Foods USA, the retail arm of Slow Foods USA.

Organic turkeys have to be raised without antibiotics and eat organic, vegetarian feed free of GMOs and pesticides. Make sure it displays the USDA Certified Organic label. certified organic ranch; guaranteed no GMOs, no pesticides.

Is there a dif from a taste point of view? “Organic has a larger breast, heritage has larger thighs,” says Mary of Mary’s turkeys.

Philosophically, we favor humane animal welfare labels that guarantee the creature had had freedom to move about, clean quarters, fresh air, a vegetarian diet, and was slaughtered with minimal suffering. The most reliable labels are certified humane, food alliance and animal welfare approved.
Need a turkey recipe? We like Maria Rodale’s.

*Pumpkin Pie? Buy fresh farmers’ market kabocha/acorn squash or canned organic pumpkin. While there’s a reported shortage of conventional canned pumpkin, shelves at natural food stores are well-stocked with organic in cans. Find regular and vegan (dairy free) recipes here.

*Prepare for Psychic Survival with Sierra Club’s Thanksgiving how-to-cope guide. Provides witty, fact-based ripostes to environment-bashing table talk.

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