An Impression of Free Range

By Cheryl Miller

In recent years, options for “free range eggs,” “cage-free chicken and turkeys,” and “humane certified meat” have been appearing in supermarkets. At this time of year, local health food stores and co-ops display notices for ordering  “pasture-raised” or “free-range” turkeys for Thanksgiving. I suppose most people think their “free-range” turkey lived the life of a Monet painting. Their Thanksgiving  turkey was free to roam gardens and fields searching for insects and plants to nibble.  She spent her days basking in the sun, stretching her wings, and dust bathing before her ultimate sacrifice.


Turkeys by Claude Monet. Painted in 1876.

According to the USDA, the terms “free range*” and “free roaming” can be used to describe animals that “are allowed access to the outside for 51% of their lives.” There are no other requirements, including the amount of time spent outdoors, the quality (field or bare earth) and/or the size of the outdoor area. Contrary to what many people believe, “free-range” farms are often no more than large sheds in which thousands of turkeys are crammed together living in their own waste.

free range

These turkeys are considered “free-range.”

In addition, many people don’t realize that turkeys raised under these labels frequently suffer through the same painful procedures as those in factory farming operations. It is often routine and standard practice (regardless of whether birds are “Factory farmed,” “Pasture-raised,” “Natural,” “Free range,” and/or “Organic”), that poults (baby turkeys) are debeaked, desnooded, and detoeed. All these procedures are done without any anesthetic.

  • Debeaking slices off approximately one-third of a bird’s beak with a red hot blade.
  • Desnooding, often done with scissors, is cutting off of the snood (the fleshy appendage above a turkey’s beak).
  • Detoeing is cutting off the ends of a turkey’s toes.

While more and more “humane” meat options demonstrates society’s growing concern for the welfare of animals raised for food, there still exists the inescapable paradox that killing animals for food constitutes the ultimate act of harm towards these sentient beings.



The following Thanksgiving recipes come from the Gentle World website:

Holiday Stuffed Butternut Squash
serves 4

2 butternut squash
2 cups brown rice (cooked)
1 cup onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery & 1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. herb seasoning
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
2 Tbsp. tamari or substitute
1/2 tsp. each, garlic powder & onion powder
1 cup walnuts & 1/2 C. pecans, chopped
3 Tbsp. tahini
3 slices of toast

1. Slice butternuts in half and scoop out the seeds. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Remove from oven and let cool.
2. Carefully scoop out insides without breaking shells. Mix squash with rice. Save shells.
3. Saute vegetables then add them to this mixture. Add seasonings, nuts and tahini.
4. Slice the toast into small squares like croutons and add to mix.
5. Stuff mixture into hollowed squash shells.
6. Bake for another 20 minutes and serve with Holiday Mushroom Gravy.

Holiday Mushroom Gravy
yields 2 1/2 cups

2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 cups water
1/3 cup tahini
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
2 tsp. herb seasoning (page 3)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. each garlic powder & onion powder
2 tsp. liquid vegetable bouillon
4 tsp. arrowroot powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper

In a little oil or water, sauté mushrooms in a small pot until soft. In a blender, blend remaining ingredients and add to the pot. Simmer on low and stir until thickened. Do not boil.

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