Turkeys on Factory Farms

What Do Turkeys Eat?



An inside look into the diet of factory-farmed turkeys.

Each year, 230 million turkeys are produced in the US, with around 46 million eaten on Thanksgiving alone. While many have accepted the consumption of this bird as a holiday tradition, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to these animals. In order to flip the script on turkey consumption, we want to reflect on the diet and conditions that turkeys are forced to endure.

Turkey imagery is likely all around our communities and homes as we enter the holidays, and many people may still picture happy turkeys raised on free-range grass pastures. Unfortunately, the reality is that 99.8% of turkeys in the US are raised in cruel factory-farmed conditions.

Turkeys are naturally omnivorous, eating a diverse variety of plants, insects, and worms. They forage and explore in their native habitats, accessing a varied diet that gives them the nutrients they need to survive and grow. In the wild, turkeys live ten years on average--much longer than the 14-18 weeks for factory-farmed turkeys.

a turkey foraging in the wild

The Truth for Turkeys on Factory Farms

On factory farms, all aspects of a turkey’s life, including their diet, are controlled to prioritize maximum profit and cost-effective solutions. Turkeys are raised in crowded and confined spaces and are fed a diet of mostly corn and soybeans designed to force immense weight gain in as short amount of time possible. This forced weight gain causes painful and debilitating health conditions, compounded by their restricted movement in confinement. Factory farming transforms turkeys from curious, independent birds into mere commodities.

Because a factory-farmed turkey’s diet is predominantly just corn, soy, and other grains, synthetic supplements are added to provide missing nutrients. This unnatural diet leads to various health issues, such as weak immune systems, risk of infection, and weak bone structure.

And because of the chronic stress and unnatural diets on factory farms, turkeys’ diets are regularly dosed with antibiotics mixed in to stave off the sickness and disease that would otherwise make these conditions unlivable.

a group of turkeys on a factory farm

There is a stark and distressing contrast between a turkey’s natural life and environment and the treatment they endure in factory farms. Factory farming sees these animals as objects to be produced and sold for maximum profit, rather than the sentient, intelligent, and unique beings they are.

A Tragic Toll on the Environment

It is important to highlight that our over-dependence on animal products in the US, especially animals like turkeys that are overproduced during specific times of the year, has significant environmental impacts. The resources that go into turkey production, including the massive amounts of corn and soybeans grown to accommodate the factory farm turkey diets, strain our native habitats and destroy biodiversity. Pesticides and fertilizers leach into soil and runoff into waterways, threatening wild animals. Climate pollutants are emitted at almost every stage of production. Factory farming is a threat to all animals, farmed, wild, or human.

How You Can Help

This holiday season, you can help to reduce the impacts of factory farming by choosing to limit your consumption of animal products and incorporating delicious plant-based meals into your diet. World Animal Protection has advice for simple swaps.

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