The #1 Thing To Know About the Great Turkey Shortage of 2015...and it has nothing to do with turkeys!
Less than 10 days from Thanksgiving and the Great Turkey Shortage of 2015 is getting a lot of hype.
Actually, it’s not all hype. If you have not heard yet, a virulent strain of Bird Flu raced through our commercial turkey populations this year, killing nearly 8 million turkeys. It also affected chicken flocks. Fortunately, this strain never crossed over to people and we’ve been spared a second great Bird Flu epidemic in humans.
The 2015 Bird Flu outbreak will mean fewer turkeys and smaller birds, (buy your frozen or pre-brined turkey early, especially if you want a big one!) along with higher poultry and egg prices for a while.
But the biggest thing we must consider from this Great Turkey Shortage has nothing to do with this year’s turkey supply.
In the past 60 years our country has been on a steady march towards industrialized farming. Industrialized corporate agriculture provides tremendous benefits to us as consumers, but it is also building into our food economy some dangerous weaknesses.
One of the greatest dangers is the homogenization of our food sources, or the winnowing down of the types and varieties of crops and livestock that are commercially grown.
This makes sense for ease of production, ease of growth, ease of maintenance, and to provide the uniformity required by our fast food industry. But it leaves us incredibly vulnerable. Just fifty years ago there were over 100 varieties of turkeys commercially grown in the US. Now we are down to three.
And it is not just turkeys. This drastic reduction in diverse varieties is happening across all areas of food production. In Peru, for example, where industrial farming is in its infancy there are over 3,000 varieties of potatoes cultivated. Yes, that’s right, that’s not a typo, I didn’t accidentally hit the 0 key too many times, yes, over 3,000. In the US we have less than 100 varieties, with fewer than 20 varieties providing the bulk of our food source.
Why does this matter?
Just as mutts are generally stronger, with fewer health issues than pure breed dogs, and why most countries have laws against marrying your closest family relatives, variety and diversity in the genetics of our food sources keep us safe by keeping our food hardy and resistant to disease. Variety and bio-diversity slows the rampant spread of disease, genetic breakdown, bacteria, viruses and molds through a species.
There is a growing movement, a great backlash against the concept of industrialized corporate farming. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that all of our crops and livestock could be raised and harvested on happy family farms in stress free, idyllic farming communities, with wholesome, non-chemical fertilizers and healthy feed, free range, anti-biotic free and harvested with love and attention?
But if that meant we could only feed 10% of our planet’s burgeoning population, an entirely new set of challenges would arise.
It is easier to boil down our human family’s biggest problems into black and white arguments; industrial corporate farming vs organic, small scale farming or fossil fuels vs sustainable energy, or chemicals in our health and beauty products vs chemical free all natural products. But this keeps us stuck in arguments rather than moving forward in creatively evolving solutions.
Our entire food industry is facing major challenges. So, what can you do? Think about this, educate yourself about the importance of bio-diversity, discuss this with your friends and family. Consider supporting farmers markets, and local sourced food. (Google “turkey farmers” in your county, and buy a locally farmed bird!) Engage with organizations that are working toward strengthening our industrial food economy and support the causes you believe in with your time and money.
And this Thanksgiving, as you enjoy your turkey, be thankful for the miraculously abundant and bountiful food available in this country and consider what you might want to do to keep it that way.