Turkeys on Factory Farms

5 Ways Turkeys Suffer on Factory Farms



With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, most of us don’t stop to think about the turkey on our plates and where that turkey came from. The sad truth is that turkeys, like all birds raised for food, endure nightmarish lives at factory farms from the moment they’re born until they’re killed.

Each year, more than 45 million turkeys, the vast majority of whom are raised on factory farms, are killed for Americans to eat on Thanksgiving. These sensitive and intelligent animals are subjected to painful mutilations without painkillers, crammed by the thousands into windowless sheds, and bred to grow so quickly they often become immobilized under their own weight. 

Disclaimer: The content below details the graphic and cruel nature of factory farming. 

1. Debeaking  

Debeaking, also known as “beak trimming,” is a horrifying procedure in which up to two-thirds of each bird’s sensitive beak is burned off with a hot blade without the use of anesthetic. This painful practice is standard in the turkey industry.  

2. Macerators 

Baby turkeys who are sick or deemed too small, are considered waste by the factory farming industry, and are ground up alive in a machine called a macerator, like a giant woodchipper.  

3. Unnatural growth 

To maximize profits, turkeys on factory farms are bred to grow so quickly that they often become immobilized under their own weight. They reach “market size” in just 18 weeks. Yes, you read that right. The turkeys we eat today have been bred to go from birth to slaughter in less than 5 months’ time. Many of these animals suffer debilitating leg and joint pain, heart attacks, and organ failure. Because of their immobility, most have to sit in their own waste, which causes painful sores and infections. 

Turkey Factory Farm

Image credit thanks to Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

4. Crammed together 

Turkeys raised on factory farms spend their entire lives in crammed, filthy, dark sheds. They often don’t feel the warmth of the sun or see its light until they’re on the cold, metal transport truck for slaughter. When they reach the desired weight, they are rounded up, overcrowded onto trucks, and shipped to slaughterhouses. This trip can take days. Given no food or water and exposed to the weather, many turkeys die before even reaching the slaughterhouse. 

5. Boiled alive 

More than 270 million turkeys are killed for food each year in the United States, a whopping 45 million around Thanksgiving alone. This is a number so large that it’s quite difficult to truly comprehend. More often than not, these birds spend their short lives in terrible conditions on factory farms only to end up at slaughterhouses where they’re hung upside down, stunned by electrified water, and then have their throats cut. However, to keep up with demand, the industry kills these animals at such a fast rate that many times workers miss a bird and they end up in boiling water alive. USDA records have found that nearly 1 million birds are unintentionally boiled alive each year in US slaughterhouses.  


For turkeys raised on factory farms and killed for food, their entire life is a nightmare. These sensitive and intelligent beings are treated as mere cogs in a machine, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If the United States can reduce its overall demand for cruelly produced meat, World Animal Protection expects factory farming can be phased out. This will benefit not only the health and wellbeing of animals but also the health and wellbeing of us and the planet.   

This Thanksgiving, be the change for the turkeys. By choosing to eat less meat this holiday and more plant-based protein, we can transform our food system, improve our health, safeguard our planet, and improve the lives of billions of innocent farmed animals.

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