Turkey isn’t a regular menu item for many Australians until the festive season hits, so surely they’re raised outdoors in fields just like the Christmas advertisements suggest? Unfortunately not.
The turkey industry has taken a leaf out of intensive poultry farming’s book by cramming birds in sheds and breeding them to grow at unnaturally fast rates. If you haven’t yet ordered your Christmas turkey, then now’s a good time to consider your options – here we’ve put together a handy guide to help you on your merry way!
The truth about turkey farming in Australia
Approximately 90% of the turkey sold here in Australia comes from factory farms where birds are raised intensively in overcrowded sheds. They are crammed together with barely enough room to move and never get to see the light of day or display their natural behaviours like foraging, dust-bathing and sunbathing.
Inghams and Baiada (Steggles) are two of the largest turkey producers in Australia, with between 3 and 5 million turkeys consumed each year in Australia (which actually isn’t many compared with the 600 million chickens we consume).
Like chickens, turkeys have been bred to grow to an unnaturally large size in a very short timeframe – these birds naturally live till about ten years old, however in this intensive industry they are usually slaughtered at around 10-12 weeks old.
Looking into where your meat comes from raises some uncomfortable truths, however, if you’re attached to serving up a bird this Christmas there are ways you can opt for a higher-welfare turkey that has been raised outdoors in an environment that more closely mimics nature. Here’s how.
Look for truly free range turkey
Don’t be fooled by the friendly butcher that brushes off your questions with a “yes, yes, it’s all ethical, it’s all free range love.” If they can’t give you details of exactly what farm it has been sourced from, then chances are their claims can’t be substantiated.
Unfortunately, there is no legal definition of the term free range in Australia so standards between farms can vary, however, there are some incredible producers who practice truly free range farming and who are happy to discuss their farming techniques with you.
If you’re unable to shop at a farmers’ market then it can be helpful to keep an eye out for free range certification logos. It’s also good to know that certified organic farms must also have been raised in a free range environment.
Here’s the dirt on the certification logos:
|Birds must have easy access to an area on which to range during daylight hours in accordance with the current edition of the appropriate State Animal Welfare Code. The land where birds are permitted to range must have shade, shelter and palatable vegetation. Beak trimming, de-snooding and toe cutting, or any other mutilation is not permitted except under veterinary direction and in accordance with the current edition of the appropriate State Animal Welfare Code. No maximum outdoor stocking density specified.||All birds must have free access to paddocks during the day. A paddock rotation system must be in place to help prevent nutrient build up in the soil, to aid in the control of parasite infestations and the over grazing of pasture or vegetation. As a guide pasture cover should not fall below 40%. Beak trimming not permitted. Stocking rates for Turkeys must not exceed 800 birds per hectare.||This logo alone does not guarantee the birds have been raised in a free range environment. |
If you’re looking to buy free-range poultry that’s accredited by the RSPCA, look for the word “free range” on the package as well. If there’s a RSPCA logo but not the words “free range”, the birds are raised indoors to RSPCA standards but with no access to the outdoors. Beak trimming is allowed; toe cutting & ‘de-snooding’ are not. No maximum outdoor stocking density specified.
|Certified organic turkey products come from turkeys kept on farms which often exceed standards on free range facilities such as having lower stocking densities. All certified organic turkey has access to the outdoors. All their feed is organic and so is the farming system, which means no GM grains are used nor any synthetic fertilisers, pesticides or antibiotics.|
Just watch out for the term ‘organic’ on packaging without a certification logo as it may simply mean that turkeys are fed organic feed.
A little list of free range turkey producers
Here’s a list of some producers around Australia that we love, as well as some recommendations from our friends at Flavour Crusader.
We’ve listed producers by state but some also offer delivery inter-state or have multiple stockists listed on their website.
Leadoux Turkeys in Bairnsdale, VIC. You can buy the turkeys direct from the farm, from a range of butchers, or from farmers’ markets around Victoria.
Deutschers Turkey Farm in Dadswells Bridge, VIC specialises in rare breed turkeys.
Pete’s Pride in Ruffy, VIC is a 320 acre farm based in North East Victoria. Contact Marj Leigh on (03) 5790 4298 to order direct.
Caroola farm is a small holistically managed permaculture organic farm based in Mulloon, NSW. You can order direct online and deliver to Canberra and surrounds as well as various markets listed on their site.
Green Ag Organic Free Range Turkey in Kingsthorpe, QLD. They’ll also deliver to some parts of NSW, NT and VIC and have various stockists. You can order online on their website.
Bendele Farm in Kilkivan, QLD are a family run business and sell direct via email (email@example.com) and phone (07) 5484 7157 as well as stock in Wild Harvest Gympie in reef Street, Shaw Meat in Gympie Central and Kilkivan Meats.
Liberty Open Range Poultry in Baldivis, WA. They do not take orders direct, but instead stock to a number of butchers in the area. A quick google search will uncover some, but most notably you can order your turkey or arrange delivery from The Naked Butcher in Mundaring, Perth.
Almond Grove Farm in Murray Bridge, SA raise 4,000 free range turkeys for the Christmas market. They are certified by Humane Choice and you can either order direct or they also list stockists online.
Freshwater Turkeys, Clare Valley
Jason and Claire Longbottom breed and free range several heritage varieties of turkey and stock to butchers through Australia. They also have a Facebook page you can reach them on.
Pooginagoric Free Range Turkeys in Bordertown, SA. Call the Watsons direct on 08 8753 7213 to place on order or for your closest merchant.
NOTE: Also check out our Ethical Meat Suppliers guide for a more extensive range of Melbourne based meat suppliers that will cater to all of your free range festive food needs.
Turkey not your thing?
How about you brave a vegetarian Christmas, our co-founder Cassie hosted one for her meat-loving family and lived to tell the tale. Check out her menu here.