What exactly do these terms mean? Do you know what you are getting when you purchase a Pastured Turkey vs Organic / Free-Range? You may think that because they are labeled organic or free-range, it’s worth the extra money you are spending because they are “better for you”; however, that is not always the case. Let’s dive a little deeper and find out what these terms actually mean.
When you see the label “free-range” you think you are getting a turkey that has been raised out in the open with plenty of access to roam at will. This is not always the case; according to USDA regulation,” free range” only means that the turkeys were allow access to the outside with no specifications as to the quality or the duration of that outside exposure. Turkeys raised in large warehouse with a small door on one end that opens to a few feet of outdoor space can still be labeled as “free-range”.
A turkey that is labeled organic is simply turkey that has been certified by a USDA-accredited agency. The term organic ensures that the bird was raised on organic feed, was “free-range”, and wasn’t treated with any antibiotics. The USDA do not provide enough assurance about turkey quality since poultry are only required to have access to the outside. Access to the outside might not involve any natural pasture access or healthy outdoor lifestyle. Organic feed will not alleviate the inhumane conditions of overcrowded barns, poor housing, poor water quality, or lack of access to fresh pastures and forage.
Truly pastured turkeys are raised by family farmers. These farmers run diversified farms practicing sustainable agriculture. They will rotate tracts of land with crops and other animals, or let it go fallow from time to time. Truly pastured turkeys forage for bugs and eat what it would find in nature. They are not fed antibiotics, growth hormones, and the fields they forage on are not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides, keeping you and your families safe from any unwanted and unhealthy additives.
The best way to ensure you’re getting a non-industrial turkey is to buy from a source that will tell you and show you how the animals are raised, what they were fed, and from what farm or farms the turkey actually came.