One week ago today, we walked into the still dark morning of our farm to gather our turkeys for their trip to the local processors. It was a clear morning with stars still out as we began to load the turkeys onto our truck. I had not slept much. Thoughts of the importance of this day – concern for the turkeys, how they would handle the truck ride and be treated at the abattoir entered my dreams and woke me up several times.
I ensured we did everything possible to minimize the stress our turkeys faced on this day.
Firstly, it was us who had had daily interaction with our turkeys for their whole lives. They were calm when we picked them up to put on the truck. We moved slowly and lifted many sleepy turkeys right off their roost. Each of our turkeys had been reserved for a special holiday dinner by people who deeply care about farming and food. In a small flock, each bird matters. It is unacceptable for our birds to be bruised or harmed for the sake of a hasty transportation process.
Secondly, we have access to a small abattoir only 20-25 minute drive away from our farm. The abattoir had a specific processing time for our flock, so our birds did not have to be crated for hours before processing. They were carried from our truck and immediately killed. We watched the death of each of our turkeys. I found this a difficult, but important step. It is how I confirmed for myself that the entire process of raising these incredible animals was as ethical as possible. The abattoir staff were sensitive and skilled in proper handling of the birds.
Slaughter is always difficult. And that’s coming a person who worked in an abattoir. And studied animal production and slaughter in school.
Processing day went as well as it possibly could and my stress level plummeted back to normal… until I was inspecting all the packaged turkeys later that day. Most customers needed their fresh turkey within the next 2 days for Thanksgiving. I felt another wave of stressful anticipation and realized that until I heard about how everyone’s turkey dinner turned out, and tasted one for myself, this story is not yet finished.