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But it's traditional, isn't it?

Actually, the Christmas turkey is far less of a tradition than you may think.

As food historian Ivan Day says: "The earliest Christmas menu on record dates from 1660 - 134 years after the bird was first brought to this country from America - and it does feature turkey, but only alongside goose, swan and heron.

"It is goose that Tiny Tim gets to eat at the end of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the story that inspired the modern festive celebration."

Turkey became ubiquitous only after the 1950s because geese were not suited to new intensive farming techniques, but turkeys were.

Frozen food was fashionable, and turkey was the festive food that worked best in the freezer.

So the new supermarkets pushed it aggressively and turkey became 'traditional'.

And tasteless, says Mr Day: "The modern lump of frozen concrete tastes like a genetic modification of balsa wood."

The industrial-scale production of the modern domestic turkey has led to a number of well documented abuses.

Perhaps the most shocking example emerged at a Bernard Matthews turkey plant last year, where two workers were filmed playing baseball with live birds.

One said to the other: "You throw them and I'll hit them," then used a pole to batter the birds around the room for sport.

An isolated example of two sadistic workers? Not so, according to the lawyer who represented them in court when they faced charges of animal cruelty (you may not be surprised to hear that they escaped jail sentences).

Norwich magistrates heard that the men's attitudes were part of the 'culture' at the plant, where they worked in 'appalling' conditions.

Responses (5)

  • Report Abuse

    Posted by gr8vegan at 12/10/07 03:07:47

    Friends of Turkeys please remember my website and

  • Report Abuse

    Posted by Tatiana at 12/10/07 12:51:59

    Oh my, that is making me sick. Karma is a b**ch though, those guys will get theirs.

    gr8vegan - I checked out your site last week, well done!

  • Stig's avatar
    Report Abuse

    Posted by Stig at 12/10/07 21:46:38

    Have a simple Xmas!

    There are many similar stories in the news today -



    Huge carbon footprint of Xmas food

    The turkey and trimmings enjoyed at millions of Christmas dinner tables will have a carbon footprint equivalent to 6,000 car journeys around the world, a study has shown.

    Academics at The University of Manchester estimate that producing a dinner for eight people generates 20kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

    The ingredients included in the study were roast turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, vegetables, bread sauce, cranberry sauce and other accompaniments.

    Researchers have assumed one third of the UK population eat this typical Christmas meal, meaning the nation generates the equivalent of 51,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

    Project leader Professor Adisa Azapagic said: "Food production and processing are responsible for three quarters of the total carbon footprint, with the largest proportion - 60% - being related to the life cycle of the turkey.

    "This includes the emissions of carbon dioxide due to energy consumption along the turkey supply chain and the emissions of methane and nitrous oxide generated due to the agricultural activities to raise the turkey.

    "All stages in the supply chain have been considered, including raising the turkey, growing the vegetables, food storage, consumer shopping, cooking the meal at home and waste management."

    The cranberry sauce alone, normally imported from North America, contributes half the carbon footprint related to transport.

    The research has been done as part of the Carbon Calculations over the Life Cycle of Industrial Activities project at the University.

    It was recently awarded a £1 million research grant to develop a comprehensive methodology and software tools for estimating the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from different industrial sectors in the UK.

  • Report Abuse

    Posted by Tatiana at 12/12/07 14:04:58

    Very interesting article, Stig. I have read a lot about similar situations with beef, etc, but I never thought to relate it specifically to turkey and a holiday meal, even.

  • KellyVeganGirl's avatar
    Report Abuse

    Posted by KellyVeganGirl at 06/18/08 19:25:06

    Christmas sucks!
    I hope those pr*cks die horrific deaths.

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