Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Great Turkey Debate

The great turkey debate is actually two separate issues.
The first debate is over the sex of turkey #3.

It is quite obvious that we have one "Tom",
as he spends quite a good deal of time strutting his stuff.

Of all the turkeys, he has the longest snood and is obviously a male.
His head is mostly red....
handsome, is he not?

Turkey #2 is most definitely a female.
She is much less colorful 
and has just a small snood.
She is quite curious and sits beside me as I relax on their perch.
She has such soulful eyes, doesn't she?

This is turkey #3.
He/she has a longer snood than the female.
Its head is mostly blue with some pale red accents.
It puffs up a bit like the male, 
but never puts on a showy display.
So the debate is this...
Is this a female, or just a non-dominant male???

The second debate is this.
If you have read my blogs for a while,
you will know that Hubbs and I have made
an attempt to be as self sufficient as possible.
With the ultimate goal of getting off the food grid,
we purchased these turkeys as just-hatched poults this past spring.
It was our intention to raise them as food.

We have one problem, though.
We are complete softies and have become attached to these
gentle creatures.

I suppose we could talk ourselves into eating them and 
then starting new ones next spring.

I have read that these heirloom turkeys are quite tasty,
and much better than anything you can purchase.

So the way I would rationalize it is this....

We have given the birds a really good life,
much better than commercially grown turkeys have.
To buy a commercially grown turkey, would in essence
just be supporting an industry that we are totally against.
So, is it not better to humanely turn these birds into 
Thanksgiving dinner,
rather than buy birds who have never seen the light of day,
and who grow faster than their legs can hold them,
ending up with painful arthritis, 
and disease from such close living quarters?

What do you think?
Please give me your thoughts.

On another subject....
I wanted to share the beautiful foliage that we are treated to
here on the farm.

Oh, and we wanted to show you what Tyler 
did on his 4 month birthday.
It's never to early to start!
Ride-em cowboy!!
Amazingly, Ollie didn't even seem to notice.

Let me know what you think
on both issues of the Great Turkey Debate.
To eat or not to eat????
That is one of the questions.


  1. I think they are so cute. I couldn't eat turkeys that I raised. But that certainly is your decision and I can understand if you choose to do so.

  2. That's a hard question. Guess it comes down to how attached you are to them, and if you look at them more as a pet or as Thanksgiving dinner... Would you butcher them yourself or have it done? I'm not sure if I could do it...
    Love the colors on your farm and little Tyler on Ollie!

  3. I don't know what I would do. Thank goodness you did not name them, then you could never eat them. We use to have chickens, and to many roosters, so we had a cook out with the roosters as the main course. Afterwards my husband said he would never do that again. He is the one that had to put them down. It was just to difficult. You have to do what you feel in your heart. I am not much help huh.

  4. I think I would have to live in a cooperative. I would be happy to sew and garden, but someone else would have to raise the chicken, turkeys, cows, pigs and sheep for consumption. Mine would always be pets!

  5. I think you should go with your original intentions. I know that is a tough pill, but look at it this way...you are not supporting the way those little guys are treated. Why give your money to something you don't agree with and make some other 'farmer' fat? That other farmer doesn't need it and he's not thinking of you!

    Gobble 'em up, you are a good girl and deserve it!

  6. Anke, we would have them "dressed" by a neighbor who is a butcher. I could not do it myself. And I would insist on humane handling, etc. I am very fussy about how animals are handled.

  7. I say eat. And if you eat the one you can't figure out the sex of... the great debate is over.

    The primcats love turkey!

    Carmen and the Primcats

  8. unless you decide to become vegetarians, I say eating your own birds is the only way to go. I agree with your point about perpetuating the "mean-handling turkey raisers" by purchasing a turkey from a store. If you know your birds have had a good life, you can rest assured that they not only will be tasty (and better for you than store bought fowl), but also that you are working toward giving up those store bought turkeys for good, and make room in your turkey coop to give other birds a good life.

    Or, alternatively, you can find another farm that raises turkeys (humanely and naturally!) specifically for food and buy from that farm. That's what I do, since I live in the city (silly Boston doesn't allow farm animals w/in the city limits, otherwise, I'd keep chickens.. somewhere). That way, you're "off" the food grid, but supporting local business, and still enjoying your happy turkeys alive :)

  9. I couldn't eat them either. We had rabbits growing up and I saw my dad kill one of the rabbits. Later that night they cooked it for dinner. I couldn't eat. They lied and said that it was chicken, but it wasn't. I just can't kill something that I raised. I am a softie in that respects.

  10. I have a feeling my stomach would want to reject anything I had raised. I'd buy someone else's farm raised turkey before I butchered my own. Meat and dining traditions aren't that important to me, so I might be inclined to grill some fish instead:-) But that's just me.

  11. We used to have three turkeys. They all acted like males ~ longer snoods, beards and strutted their stuff, but they all laid eggs!
    They were named ~ Moe, Larry and Curly! We couldn't eat them, but we gave Curly away (he/she was really nuts! Drove us crazy with the noise and behavior!)a coyote killed Moe, and after several years, a raccoon killed Larry!) They did make marvelous pets ~ they were very friendly, were fun to watch "change colors" according to what we were wearing, running to great us and wanting to be "petted".
    They did get arthritis even though they were free range and had the shelter of the chicken house.
    But I think if I had someone else to the butchering and they were handled humanely, I would do it. But, perhaps you may want to keep these guys as pets and raise some next spring with full intention of
    raising them for food.

  12. I couldn't eat them either. We had rabbits growing up and I saw my dad kill one of the rabbits. Later that night they cooked it for dinner. I couldn't eat. They lied and said that it was chicken, but it wasn't. I just can't kill something that I raised. I am a softie in that respects.

  13. We seperate our pets from our food... poultry that are inteded for food are never named (i see neither are yours 1,2,3). I certainly couldnt slaughter it myself however, to bring it to a butcher to dress professionally and humanly is the way to go. Good for you doing your part .. and you are right you have given them love and an excellent life...now its time for them to payback.

  14. After having to put down one of my goats that was born here on the farm, I know the pain. That being said, the next time I would do the same, but have a professional handle it.

    It is a lesson though. Food does not come easy if you want your meat of any sort. If you care what goes in your food and how its raised, you should follow through with the plan. If nothing else, it gives you a whole new respect for your animals and the other people who raise and prepare your food. It did for me.

  15. My vote is to eat them. But I understand your dilema. I raised 12 broiler chickens and 7 turkeys this year. I processed the chickens myself but could not do the turkeys. I don't know if it was their size or their personality. So they went to the butcher. They had a wonderful 18 weeks, fresh produce and fresh water and fresh air. It's hard to possess both canine teeth and a conscience!

  16. My guess is he is a non-dominate male. Just a guess.

    I totally would not know what to do in your situation. I think it wouldn't be so hard if someone else buthered it. Bad mistake in sitting in their pen and bonding with them. :)

  17. I don't think I could eat a turkey I knew. Turkey are cheap in the store.
    I think if I was so attached to them as I can tell that you are, I think you might recognize who you were eating. :)Why not just raise turkey babies and sell them. You do have chickens without names, or perhaps your roosters? That is why I never name my hens, in case one day I had to eat them.

  18. I don't think you can go wrong, either way. Killing an animal that has been raised in a humane setting for your own food is a great thing to do, if you so choose. If you cannot bring yourselves to do so, then perhaps you can find a willing friend to assist you on that day.

    On the other hand, if want to keep the birds but do not want to support what is happening to our the animals we eat from the commercial vendors, find another local farmer who is making a living raising their livestock organically and buy from them, already butchered.

    Either way, you remain true to values of eating animals who have been healthfully raised.

    Hard decision, not sure what I would do either. Good luck.

    Mary Ann in NW PA

  19. We have had our turkeys for several years.. can't do it. LOL But you could always eat the one you don't know for sure the sex and keep the other two to raise babies next year. I have one now that I haven't named that should be ready next year to eat... we will see

  20. I would eat the one that you can't figure out the sex. Have you considered raising your own turkeys from the male/female you have now? If you allowed them to hatch their own babies would that make it more or less difficult for you to eat them? I think whether you raise the animal for pet or food, it's correct to raise them with love and care. We could not eat the first hens we raised last summer, but when we purchased more this summer to add to the group I explained to the kids that any roosters would be raised to butcher and we will have someone else do that for us. We are also striving to raise more food for ourselves and not depend on the market. It's a difficult choice, I know. I wish you the best with your decision.

  21. I understand what you're saying about them living a MUCH better life than one lived on a factory farm and you're 100% right. But the reality for me would be that I just get too attached to living things and would feel like SUCH a traitor to those little sweethearts. But that's just my opinion. It's a VERY hard decision you're faced with.

  22. I always tell my husband that when we buy a small acreage someday (hopefully!) that I could raise chickens for eggs and a goat or cow for milk but wouldn't be able to raise an animal to butcher it...because I know I would get too attached.
    With that said, it is much better to raise an animal in a happy and humane enviornment and then quickly and painlessly butcher it to eat it than to buy a store bought bird that had a horrible life. I say that if you intend to eat turkey this year you should eat your own. I know it is hard to butcher them but I think after the first time it will be easier to see the livestock that you bought for food as actual "food".

  23. What is the natural life span of a turkey? Maybe that will help you make your decision, to be able to put it in perspective? If it's only a few years, then maybe it's easier to see that the life they had was GREAT, and much better than a normal turkey's life. God DID give them to us for food (even tho I'm sure I'd have a hard time with it too, if I'd gotten attached to them!)

  24. I've been thinking about this all morning! I think for me it would get down to one question: "could I actually eat that particular turkey?" and if I couldn't honestly answer yes to that question, and have peace about that answer, I wouldn't do it. Because if on Thanksgiving day I could not bring myself to eat him, then his death would have been a waste, when I could have enjoyed having him for a pet. :)

    Now I must go and get my mind on something else besides turkeys!

    Have a great day!

  25. I process my own chickens and while I don't particularly like the killing part-it does increase my appreciation for the animal that I am eating. We have become far removed from where our food actually comes from.

    I would much prefer to have someone do it for me, but I don't have that option. Your turkeys had a great life compared to the millions of factory birds out there. Have your neighbor process them and enjoy them on your table and by all means-raise some more chicks next year!
    Heather in PA

  26. I vote for eating #3. Keep 1 and 2 as a breeding pair, and raise their poults for meat next year. I do my own broilers and turkeys, and I don't "like" killing (what normal person does?) but I like it a lot more than buying store bought meat.

    Besides, if your goal is to be self sufficient, and you keep these turkeys as pets, it will make it much harder to ever be self sufficient. I understand how you feel. I love the ram lamb that I intend on putting in the freezer, but I can't keep them (or feed them!) all.

    You'll just have peace of mind knowing that turkey lived a great life, and you'll be raising your own poults for next year's meals.

  27. So how about this idea, Keep the three you have as a breeder cell and eather let the hen hatch out a clutch of eggs or use an incubator to hatch them and raise thoes birds as food? You do eat the eggs right?

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