Hightower: Turkeys On Drugs

Difficult as it is for us to discuss publicly, "chemical dependency" is a topic we should face-up to in this holiday season. I don't mean the tragedy of human drug addiction, but the absurdity of ever-increasing drug doses in our food supply. Let's talk turkey. The butterball most Americans pull out of their oven is less a creature of nature then a Frankenstein of industrial agriculture. Some 90 percent of all turkeys on the market today are bred -- or should I say inbred -- from just three corporate-controlled flocks of a single strain of "white" turkey. To give you some idea of what you're getting, one of these breeder flocks is owned by Merck & Company, the drug giant, and another is owned by British Petroleum. These turkeys have been intensively bred to have so much breast meat that they literally cannot mate -- all have to be artificially inseminated. Also, their bodies are so distorted that they can barely walk even a few steps on their own two drumsticks. -- and the birds cannot survive outside the treadmill farm-factories that jam them together and feed them on a steady diet of antibiotics and chemical growth stimulants. How dependent are they on drugs? Factory farm animals get an average of 30 times more antibiotics than people do -- and, yes, the drugs can end up in the drumsticks your kids eat. Of course, it doesn't have to be this way. Iowa farmer Bill Welch, for example, raises 14,000 turkeys a year, using diverse breeds that are fed organic grain, are able to breed the old-fashioned way, can walk around on their own legs and don't need antibiotics or other chemicals. To get the names of farmers near you who produce turkeys naturally, like Bill does, contact a group called Farm Verified Organic: 701-486-3578.

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