How Free Range is your Turkey?

Nov 6, 2014 by

Have you ever wondered why intensive free range turkeys all seem to congregate at the door of their huge sheds? I always have. I had assumed it was because they were institutionalised and didn’t want to leave the heat of the shed. But today I was over visiting a small scale, genuine free range producer and he told me.

A turkey can only recognise a thousand other turkeys. (And we think they are stupid…….) In that thousand there is a strict pecking order. If the doors of the shed open, only those closest to the door will go out because if a poor chap from the back ventures forth, he risks being bullied and pecked by those into whose territory he has entered. So if you assume there are 7000 turkeys in a shed, yes seven thousand, you can presume only a percentage of those ever get to go out.

Having reared poultry here for years, but not turkeys, I have seen the bullying that goes on when a new bird is introduced. It can take one to three weeks for a new introduction to be accepted. Hens are particularly wicked. But I have observed similar bullying in horses as well.

Small numbers of genuine free range birds who have established a pecking order and all recognise each other will knock you down to get out. When they get out, they get to eat a more varied diet (usually), they get exercise and fresh air and their meat will have a lot more flavour. In addition, they have lived their life as nature intended and haven’t spent their entire existance in a few square centimetres inhaling ammonia fumes from turkey wee.

With everything you buy “buyer beware” should apply. Ask where your Christmas/Thanksgiving turkey is from. Ask what it’s fed. It is best to go and visit but there are occasions you have to put your trust in your butcher or producer. A genuine producer or butcher will have no problem letting you see where the birds are reared. And a genuine person won’t sell you a pig in a poke.

If you care about animal welfare or if you care about what you eat, don’t be fooled by a free range label. It’s become as meaningless as artisan and all the other clichés bandied about willy nilly.

Related Posts


Share This


  1. Got your test Andrea.

  2. Great article big Sis��

  3. Anonymous

    test comment from andrea

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *