Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Food Without Fear

In 1984 Americans were spending roughly 8 percent of their disposable income on health care and about 15 percent on food. Today, those numbers are essentially reversed.

If your image of a turkey's life is one of green grass and rolling hills, look more closely. Nearly 300 million turkeys are raised today on factory farms where they live in windowless buildings illuminated by bright lights 24 hours a day. (This keeps the turkeys awake and eating.) The birds stand wing to wing on wood shavings and eat an overly fortified diet that enables them to reach an ideal dressed weight of 15 pounds in 12 to 14 weeks. The most popular breed is the Broad Breasted White, aptly named because these turkeys develop disproportionately large breasts, which makes it difficult for the birds to walk (if they had room to do so) and procreate (assuming they'd want to) without artificial insemination.

So what kind of bird would fit more accurately with our agrarian fantasies? Well, how about one that spends most of its life outdoors? Such birds - called pastured birds - are able to move around freely. Instead of having to be injected with antibiotics to stay healthy, they doctor themselves, seeking out certain plants at certain times of the year for pharmacological reasons. Because they expend so much energy moving around, they also grow more slowly: it takes them a month longer to reach slaughter weight than factory birds, which is one of the reasons pasturing is less attractive to industrial farmers. Scientific research comparing the health benefits of conventionally raised turkey to pastured turkey is scarce, but some work has been done on chickens. A study sponsored by the Department of Agriculture in 1999, for example, found that pastured chickens have 21 percent less fat, 30 percent less saturated fat, 50 percent more vitamin A and 400 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than factory-raised birds. They also have 34 percent less cholesterol.
via The New York Times

1 comment:

John Flurry said...

There are different opinions on this subject.

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.