Talkin’ Turkey: 5 Tips for This Holiday Season

October 12, 2023

a tom turkey

It’s almost that time of year again when we gather around the dinner table to celebrate, reflect and give thanks. Whether you are making a traditional recipe or trying a new one, finding ingredients that don’t come from factory farms can be tricky, and misleading food labels don’t make it any easier. 

If you are buying turkey this year, it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to explore your options, avoid tomfoolery and determine how to make the most humane choices you can. 

1. Look for free-range or pasture-raised options that have earned a meaningful animal welfare certification

Survey data show that over half (56%) of Americans say it’s important to them that the turkeys they buy are pasture-raised ... but less than one-third (28%) of Americans reported being certain that the turkey they ate last Thanksgiving came from a farm where the birds had any access to the outdoors. The reality is, the vast majority of turkeys are raised entirely indoors in crowded warehouses, regardless of the pretty pictures on the package. To find the higher-welfare options on the look for brands that have two or three green hearts on our Shop With Your Heart Grocery List! For more options, see our certified farms by state list (number 3 below) or variety of plant-based alternatives (number 4 below).

Turkeys in tall grass under a tree

2. Be wary of claims like “cage-free,” “hormone-free,” “natural” or “humanely raised”

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans reported that when shopping for turkey, it’s important to them that the bird was protected from suffering, but meaningless claims like ”natural” or “cage-free” don’t do anything to guarantee that turkeys are allowed to strut around happily. Often these birds endure harsh practices and rearing conditions on factory farms, where they are housed in long sheds without access to fresh air, sunshine or pasture. To learn more about which claims are meaningful and which claims are meaningless for animal welfare, check out our Label Guide

Factory farmed turkeys in dirty conditions

3. There might be a more humane option closer than you think 

If you’re striking out at the supermarket, you still have options. Some of the brands on our Grocery List ship nationwide. Or you can use our Farms by State webpage to find a welfare-certified farm close to you that raises turkeys. If you aren’t sure how a farm near you raises their turkeys, we have a handy guide that you can use to ask them about it! 

4. Bypass the bird and still put on a gourd-geous spread!

One-third of Americans reported that they didn’t eat turkey at all last Thanksgiving, and that’s no surprise given the cornucopia of wonderful plant-based turkey alternatives available online and in supermarkets. All Vegetarian Inc. has a plant-based holiday turkey roast filled with plant-based stuffing, Field Roast has a plant-based celebration roast that comes with gravy, Myrtle Greens sells whole plant-based turkeys, and Tofurky has multiple roast and gravy options to choose from. If you’re making sandwiches, brands like Unreal Deli, the Herbivorous Butcher and Gourmet Evolution all have pre-sliced, plant-based turkey options. And your meal doesn’t need to be fully plant-based to make a difference—try incorporating a few plant-based options into your dinner menu this year. For more plant-based alternatives, check out our Shop With Your Heart Grocery List

5. Remember that no matter what you eat, you can play a role in ending factory farming 

Join our Factory Farming Task Force to learn more about how you can make your voice heard for farm animals this holiday season—and all year round—with policy actions and updates on new welfare-certified products and plant-based alternatives.