Let’s Talk Turkey

November 13, 2015

Surveys tell us that more than 100 million turkeys are eaten each year in America, 46 million of which will be the center of Thanksgiving feasts. Yikes!

Besides the karmic debt incurred with eating animals, what are the real risks of eating turkey?

How much time do you have?

Donald Schaffner, PhD, an extension specialist in food science from Rutgers University says this, “Change your mind-set about poultry. Start by thinking of it as being contaminated.” Yuck.

On the list of “The 10 Dirtiest Foods You’re Eating” in Men’s Health Magazine, there’s more to the turkey on your plate.

Here are the main reasons (again…karma aside) you should skip the drumstick or breast at this year’s feast:

1. You Could Get Fat
Poultry is often portrayed as a smart choice if you want to drop a few pounds. The reality is a bit different.  A European study following over 300,000 participants over five years showed a strong association between weight gain and poultry consumption.

All meat is calorically dense, so just skip it.

2. Cancer Risk
Several studies link poultry consumption with increased risk of various cancers.

Studies show that eating more poultry boosted breast cancer risk, in some instances as high as 42%.

Another study showed that daily consumption of poultry increased the risk of pancreatic risk by as much as 72%.


3. And Then There’s Diabetes
The foods you choose influence your risk of Type 2 diabetes dramatically. While most of us know that risk is increased with the consumption of red meat, we don’t often think of poultry as risky. But we should. A study done in eight European countries, with more than 340,000 participants showed that the amount of poultry eaten had a significant impact on the development of diabetes, especially in women.

4. It’s Just a Mess!
Salmonella, E. Coli, staphylococcus are just some of the harmful bacteria found in turkey. Ground turkey was found to also contain fecal matter. Yum.

All kidding aside, with more than 80% of turkey arriving to market contaminated, your likelihood of getting sick is pretty high. And since it takes about five days of “incubating” in your intestinal tract before you feel ill, you likely won’t associate it with the turkey you ate.

Thanksgiving can be especially risky. If just one step in the preparation of the bird is mishandled, from thawing, preparing, stuffing or cooking, dangerous levels of bacteria can rise.

Some experts tell us that thorough cooking solves the problem of bacteria but not so fast. Cross-contamination is a key factor in moving harmful bacteria from the bird to any number of surfaces, utensils and foods in the kitchen.

In the end, there’s nothing “Currier and Ives” about that bird in the middle of the table. If you love your family and friends…and I know you do, you’ll seriously consider ditching the turkey and placing the focus of your feast on the abundance Mother Nature provides in the plant kingdom.