Do You Vote For This?

Give this a listen. It’s from the Freakonomics blog and podcast, of Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics book fame.

Just ask yourself honestly. I’m not asking for some ethical revolution in your own life or total abstinence. I’m just asking in this one instance, do you vote for this? Is this something you support? Really, no one needs to respond verbally. We will know by what you put in your mouth next Thursday. *Bonus points if you bring it up with your thanksgiving co-participants.

 the question is this: of all the commercially raised turkeys in the U.S., what percentage are the product of artificial insemination?

The answer, oddly enough, is 100 percent. Why? Well, it’s a supply-and-demand story. Because Americans particularly love to eat turkey breast meat (a great delivery platform for gravy!), turkeys have been selectively bred over the years to have bigger and bigger breasts. So big, in fact, that when it comes time for a male turkey to naturally reproduce with a female, his massive breast prevents him from getting close enough to complete the act.

I am not going to start foaming at the mouth and start advocating husbandry nihilism. But let me add two things more: it also poses disastrous ecological and biological problems. These turkeys are pumped full of antibiotics because having thousands of birds in one barn, all with Frankenstein genetics,*  poses severe risks to the health of the birds. But all these antibiotics make it in to their meat (no duh, right?) and when we eat it, we’re essentially normalizing our own immune system to these antibiotics, thus making all antibiotics less effective overall. This raises the potential for super bugs to grow (the fabled antibiotic resistant strep, e.g.).

Secondly, all their shit, their feces, has to go somewhere. It isn’t fit for manure and it does not have any nutrients we can use in soil. More often, all that shit ends up in pools more or less destined for our water supply or the irrigation of our crops. I don’t think I need to say more when the news does a pretty decent job of sounding the alarm for E. Coli outbreaks and other food borne illnesses from unwashed and uncooked vegetables. (But for some reason the news doesn’t really ask how a bacteria that lives in the intestines of animals ends up on vegetables – I’ll help you out, poop. There’s poop on everything, including inside that freakish cavern in your thanksgiving turkey that you just pulled a big helping of stuffing out of).

Having Turkey for thanksgiving?

* The genetics of these monstrous birds would cause them to die on their own if they weren’t slaughtered at the human equivalent age of adolescence.

Some ancillary facts and supporting information comes from Eating Animals – which you should read even if you’re not disturbed by the morality of factory farming practices.

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