Turkey Lurkey

Unless you are a vegetarian, or have an aversion to poultry (the kind to eat, not to hang out with — because we all know how I feel about the latter) you are probably going to enjoy turkey this Thanksgiving.  As I was perusing the Sunday Times (online) today I came across this “Op-Ed Classic” from this time of year in 2003.

Patrick Martins, of Slow Food U.S.A., dissects the journey of an industrial turkey from birth to your Thanksgiving table.  In short, the life of an industrial turkey sounds like something out of a horror novel.  The journey is about as bad as the most gruesome episode of Survivor Man (think of the episode where he bit the head off of the live, writhing snake).

My first thought as I read was: I hope my parents bought a free-range turkey.  As I kept reading, it became clear that even a free-range label might mean nothing nowadays.

My second thought: Martins wrote this five years ago, in what was arguably a very different foodie culture.  Today, the local grocery store abounds with organic/local/free-range options.  If you aren’t satifised there, you can bring your business to any number of specialty stores, particularly if you live near a Whole Foods, Fresh Market or even a Trader Joe’s.

We don’t have those kind of stores in Athens, at least not within a fifty mile radius, but we do have restauarants and companies that focus on providing fresh, locally-produced food.  The bakery/cafe down the street is offering an entire Thanksgiving meal direct from a few of the nearby family farms.  If that’s not going to meet the criteria laid out by Martins, I’m not sure what will.

Somewhere between 2003 and 2008, Americans began to put more emphasis on healthy living.  The definition of healthy is still in dispute.  Some say local, others say organic.  Some say its all hogwash and won’t really eschew their daily McDonald’s intake.  The associations and companies who rely on traditional food culture are desperate to keep bad press from ruining their businesses (remember the Corn Growers Association’s ads trying to “dispel the myths” about corn syrup?).  I’m curious to see where it all goes from here, especially as the financial crisis starts to take its toll on our culinary consciousness.

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