If you start digging into the origins of that sale-priced Butterball turkey at your local Publix, you probably won't like what you find. Turkeys bred in factories are genetically engineered, pumped full of antibiotics, mutilated -- the list goes on.
And even if you set aside the animal welfare issues, eating factory-farmed turkey is far from good for you. Antibiotic-resistant bugs anyone?
There are more healthful, humane options than your standard, store-bought bird. We checked out the local options. Find the details after the jump.
For healthful, humane meat selections, Whole Foods is probably your best bet. All stores follow a set of standards based on the Global Animal Partnership. It's dubbed the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards, and you can find the brochure in the meat department of any Whole Foods store.
All meats sold at Whole Foods have to reach at least Step 1 -- and that's an accomplishment itself. Step 1 means no crates, no cages. Animals must live their lives with space to move and stretch their legs.
Jim McLallen, the Whole Foods' meat coordinator for Florida, frequently visits the farms and has high praise for the company's values. "Our suppliers and growers definitely take pride in what they do," he says.
The higher up you go, the more impressive the standards. Step 5 means the animals have to live their lives on one farm, in addition to a pasture-centered lifestyle and enriched environment. You can check out the full list of steps online.
All in-store meat is labeled with its step so you can be clear about what you're buying. There are even a couple of farms that Whole Foods sources from that rate Step 5-plus, including the family-owned, multigenerational White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Georgia.
And though a Whole Foods turkey costs a little more than an average supermarket bird, you can't put a price on health and wellness.
"It does cost the folks who are raising and growing more time, effort, and dollars," McLallen says. "We do everything we can on our side to keep the retail down as low as possible for our guests."
McLallen advises ordering ahead online for your turkey. If you're looking for a bigger bird and they're listed as unavailable, they'll have some extras in each store. They also have Kosher turkeys -- plus made-to-order meals. Orders can be placed now through Sunday, November 24, and can be picked up at participating stores Monday, November 25, through Thursday, November 28.
While most of this artisanal shop's turkeys were claimed by early orderers, Proper Sausages might have a few extra on hand.
"We have a couple left that we can probably sell of the smaller birds," owner Frederick Kaufmann says.
They're bringing in larger, black turkeys from Tanglewood Farms (sorry, those are spoken for) and "midget whites" from Florida's Lake Meadow Farms, from which Proper Sausages frequently sources chicken and eggs.
For future meals, you can always call ahead and order something special. "Come the holidays, we look forward to taking lots of special orders and providing people with a lot of options for their big meals -- anything that's tradition for their families," he says.
Duck, chicken, goose -- whatever floats your family's boat.
Another option for a better-than-the-average-bird is Trader Joe's. As their website states, "We only offer the highest quality hens that are raised for us by experienced turkey farmers in California, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. We ensure that they get a diet of 100% vegetarian feed and are 'All Natural,' which for us means that they are minimally processed and never receive antibiotics or added growth hormones."
An assistant manager at the Pinecrest store assured us that the above was true, though she couldn't give us any more details. Unfortunately, you can't order ahead; the turkey acquisition process at TJ's is first-come, first-served. But they restock daily.
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Sadly, that's about it for Miami-Dade. But it's worth the effort to seek out one of the above. Also, remember to ask questions about your turkey's origin, wherever you buy it. If you're putting it into your body, you should know where it comes from. Happy, healthy turkeys make a happy, healthy you.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.