Organic Turkey: Why It's Worth The Extra Few Bucks

Organic Turkey: Why It's Worth The Extra Few Bucks
roast turkey

As I write this a week before Thanksgiving, I realize that soon, lots of people will be spending their hard-earned money on holiday gifts for friends and family. I get it. Every extra dollar in your pocket this time of year adds up. But one thing I'm willing to splurge on even if it means one less spa treatment is organic turkey....

I'm doing a little online window shopping for the Thanksgiving meal I'll be hosting.

Should I spend $249.95 for a 20 pound organic turkey from a high-end gourmet company, (plus $35 delivery)? Or should I just pop in to the local Target which has a deal for $1.49 per pound for non-organic whole turkey?

The answer: neither.

I'm not spending 200+ bucks for turkey, that's just cray-cray. But I'm also not going to buy the cheapest turkey I can find. There's got to be a happy medium. While it's true that organic, pasture-raised turkeys can be double the price of non-organic turkey (and much more so if you're buying from Williams Sonoma), I think it's well worth the money spent.

Talkin' Turkey: Why Organic Is Better For You & The Planet

Maybe you're thinking, what's the big deal if you eat a little non-organic turkey for Thanksgiving. It's only one day a year. While that may be true, I believe that food is medicine. Why not give your body the fuel it needs to thrive?

The reason I eat organic turkey is because pasture-raised turkeys eat what they're supposed to eat in nature. And what do organically-raised turkeys eat? For starters, what they don't eat is any genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Instead, they eat grass, clover and other broad-leaved plants. In fact, according to this organic turkey farmer, turkeys that live in open pastures can "jump up and grab a midair bite out of 6 foot tall amaranth plants." They eat anything green, adds the organic turkey farmer, from chicory to plantain.

In addition, organically-raised turkeys eat lots of seeds, acorns and nuts as well as vegetables such as heirloom tomatoes. This is the reason why organic turkeys are so flavorful (if you've never eaten organic turkey, trust me, it is way richer in flavor and more juicy and plump) and healthy. When you eat organic turkey you're getting the health benefits of the superfoods the turkeys eat in the wild.

Organic turkeys are higher in omega-3 fatty acids (the "good" fat that helps you burn body fat more efficiently), as well as another essential fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. CLA's help to fight against cancer and cardiovascular disease.

live turkey

Organic Turkey For Thanksgiving: Go Local

Do you see what I mean so far about food being medicine? Eating regular turkey provides none of the above benefits and can actually harm your health. This is because regular turkey may contain pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other stuff that's bad not only for the turkeys but for people, which includes consumers and factory farm workers, who are exposed to environmental hazards.

But let's say you're invited to a dinner where turkey is served. I realize it might be awkward to ask the host if the bird is organic. And unfortunately, even if the turkey has a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) organic certification, under current rules, poultry that is labeled USDA Organic may have been given antibiotic injections before it hatched and until its second day of life.

That's why in my opinion, if you're not in control of the situation, it's better to refrain from eating it. Instead, load up on green veggies and a little bit of fat to help you feel full. You'll be just fine going one meal without animal protein. However, if you are in control of the situation, and you're either hosting the meal or bringing another turkey to a dinner party, it's best if you get the turkey from a local farmer (or as local as possible). But even the USDA Organic label is far better for you than regular turkey.

And don't think that if you buy a turkey that has an "all-natural" label, it's as good as organic. The natural label just means that it's minimally processed without any artificial ingredients. It does not mean organic or no antibiotics, as this Consumer Reports article says.

Where to Buy Organic Turkey

If there's not a local organic turkey farmer within a short drive from you, you know where I'd look to buy? It's somewhere that I myself might go to to stock up on my Thanksgiving dinner: Costco. Last year, the wholesale membership club giant sold fresh organic hen turkey at $2.99 a pound! That savings on organic turkey is alone worth the cost of a Costco membership.

For that price I might just buy two 13-pounders. They'll cook faster than a 26-pounder.


above, Tofurky roast

What About Vegetarian/Vegan Turkey Options?

If you don't eat meat, there's always the option of eating "tofukey". Personally, I don't consider processed soybean products to be healthy. In fact, some health experts suggest that processed soybeans contain harmful substances such as enzyme inhibitors. Enzyme inhibitors interfere with your digestion. They increase gastric distress and create chronic deficiencies, potentially leading to enlargement of the pancreas and cancer. These harmful substances, however, are greatly reduced when the soy is fermented. But to my knowledge, there's no fermented tofurkey on the market.

That being said, however, I think Tofurky's plant-based Roast & Wild Rice Stuffing is better for you than factory-farmed turkey.

I actually eat a 90-95 percent plant-based diet. But this Thanksgiving, I do plan on eating some organic turkey. I like knowing that the animal that will bless me with health and vitality was grown naturally, with plenty of open space in a caring environment. That to me is well worth $2.99 a pound.

To your health,

Chef V