If you're planning a Christmas dinner of roast turkey, goose or chicken, source the best quality meat possible for your meal. The freshness and flavor of an organic or free-range bird just can't be beaten.Excerpted from A Greener Christmas
Poultry Farming Facts:
Since the advent of industry farming and breeding technology in the twentieth century, commercial poultry farmers have been able to produce bigger birds in a restricted environment in a shorter space of time. The impact of these intensive farming methods has meant that the amount of cheap meat now available has increased dramatically. Recently, however, the trend in farming has begun to shift back towards smaller-scale poultry farmers using traditional, more holistic ways of rearing their flocks to provide good-quality, flavorful birds.
Organic and Free-Range:
These birds are kept in smaller groups than conventional poultry, housed in spaces large enough for free movement and access to open pastures and water. As a result, the birds lead longer, hap-pier and less stressful lives. The smaller groups establish a natural pecking order that helps to allay the aggression and attacks that often occur between confined birds. Also, these birds are fed a nutritious, balanced diet.
Organic turkeys may be smaller than their commercial counterparts but, because they live longer, the meat has more flavor. Geese are grazing birds; and the better the grass, the better the end re-sult. The geese are fed a cereal-based diet until they are about 12 weeks old, and then again once the nutrients in grass decrease in wintertime. Sometimes, the only difference between organic and free-range birds is the type of feed used. Organic feed can be costly for a smallholder, as can the organic certification.
The Provenance of Poultry:
Knowing who you are buying your food from will make all the difference to the quality of your meat. It's worth finding a reliable local supplier and asking them how the birds have been reared and killed and what type of feed has been used. If you can visit the farm to make your order, you may even be able to see the birds in their environment. Small-scale producers are passionate about their food and work hard to make sure their produce tastes as good as it can on your plate. So your carefully chosen bird will result in a fabulously tasty meal.
Understanding Product Labels:
If you choose to shop for chicken or other poultry in a supermarket, it's important to check the various labels and understand what they mean in order to make sure that you buy well-reared poultry:
Poultry Farming Facts:
300 million turkeys are bred for slaughter in the US annually, mostly in dark, cramped conditions. The highest demand for turkey is in the holiday season.
Forty years ago, it took 84 days for a broiler chicken to reach market weight; now, it can take as little as 37 days to achieve the same weight.
Broiler chickens typically have a splayed gait and pronounced waddle - a result of leg and hip injuries caused by their accelerated development. They also suffer obesity and heart disease from such rapid weight gain, and hock, breast and foot-pad burn from constantly sitting in soiled litter.
Some commercially reared giant turkeys can be reared to weigh almost 88 pounds in just 30 weeks. By comparison, an adult organic turkey will only weigh about 10-11 pounds at the same age.
Excerpted from A Greener Christmas
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2008