Turkeys have been bred to grow large, meaty bodies, as quickly as possible. We know that modern industrially farmed turkeys are now so heavy and develop so much breast muscle that reproduction is done by artificial insemination.
As The Poultry Site explains it: "The turkey industry especially depends on artificial insemination since natural mating is virtually impossible as a result of intense genetic selection for conformation and body weight."
Sadly, these incredibly heavy birds often develop lameness - and this obviously causes them pain.
World Poultry (Nov 21st) magazine says: "Femur fractures in turkeys bred for faster growth to market weight and significantly enhanced breast muscle yield are an ongoing concern for turkey growers, because affected birds must be culled, negatively impacting profit margins." Actually, the primary concern here should be animal suffering.
Scientists at Michigan State University carried out experiments to find the cause of the lameness and concluded it was a combination of the weight and age of the turkey.
Researcher Dr. Darrin Karcher, summed up their findings, "Unfortunately, at the present time, there is no means of addressing the femur fracture problem other than slowing the growth rate and reducing the final weight of the bird, neither of which is practical."
Compassion has another suggestion which we think is entirely practical: Breed the turkeys for lighter weights and slower growth so that their own bodies don't become their worst enemy. Let them outside so that they can exercise and strengthen their bones.
Compassion urges those who are buying a turkey this Christmas to opt for an organic or free range one.