Turkey, particularly ground turkey is in the news. This week, Consumer Reports released a report looking at bacteria on turkey meat that’s resistant to medicines used for humans. Scientists there tested 257 samples of raw ground turkey meat that they purchased at grocery stores around the country. They conclude that turkey meat that came from turkeys raised organically without antibiotics was significantly less likely to harbor resistant bacteria compared to meat from conventional turkeys that were given antibiotics.
Are Pill-Popping Turkeys A Danger? Treating poultry (and other food animals) with antibiotics could lead to some serious health consequences for human beings. Increasingly the issue of resistant bacteria is a problem . “The use and misuse are rampant,” says Bill Niman, founder of Niman Ranch in Northern California and a member of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production.
Those concerned fear that the practice will have serious consequences for human health care — and that some of those consequences are already starting to show up.
Antibiotics are approved in turkeys both for therapeutic use (meaning, to treat sick turkeys) and for disease prevention — which usually means the rest of the flock will also be treated to keep the disease from spreading. The potential for danger from antibiotic use in farm animals comes in two forms, experts say: The antibiotics could remain in meat when people eat it. They could also contribute to the development of resistant bacteria.
If people are getting a dose of antibiotics every time they have a hamburger or a piece of chicken — or a turkey drumstick — this exposure could possibly be harmful. We all have benevolent bacteria in our bodies, and the antibiotics we eat could kill those good bacteria. Also, some people are sensitive to antibiotics, with reactions ranging from diarrhea to itching to seizures, and they could have these reactions to the food they eat.
Even critics of antibiotic use see this danger as minimal, at least in turkeys. A withdrawal time has been established for every antibiotic, based on testing how long it remains in the bird after usage has stopped. So if the withdrawal time is, say, two weeks, the antibiotic cannot be given for at least two weeks before the turkey goes to market.
Besides, the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture routinely examine the turkeys for residue of the drugs, says Sherrie Rosenblatt, spokeswoman for the National Turkey Federation, and on average, the birds are found to be 99.9% residue free.
The second concern — that of antibiotic resistance — has many more scientists worried. Resistance develops when antibiotics kill off some of the bacteria they’re supposed to, but not all — so only the super-strong survive. If this happens enough, the susceptible bacteria are wiped out, but a strain of resistant bacteria takes over in their place, and the antibiotics that used to work don’t work any longer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls antibiotic resistance one of its top concerns.
“There are bacteria that were once treatable with antibiotics that are now resistant to everything,” says microbiologist Lance Price, director of metagenomics and human health at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix.
No one doubts that much of the problem stems from improper or unnecessary antibiotic use by humans — say, to treat viral infections like colds and flu. But Price says that part of the problem is certainly due to agricultural use.
Fortunately in the San Francisco Bay area, there is plenty of anti-biotic free turkey. The best way to combat poor farming practices by is NOT to buy the products they produce.
Willie Bird Turkey in Santa Rosa has a retail store and a restaurant. They have smoked as well as fresh turkey for sale. You may also see them at farmers markets as well as street fairs — well you’ll know they are there shen you see people walking around with turkey legs.
Diestel Family Turkey Ranch The Diestel family turkey ranch is one of the last small, family-owned operations in the United States that still processes and delivers its product to market.
Branigan’s Turkey Farm The reason that Branigan Turkeys are different from regular store bought turkeys is that they are raised longer. Most turkeys are processed at 16 weeks. Although they are considered mature turkeys at these ages, Branigan Farms feels that they must be raised longer to acquire a proper meat finish. It’s expensive to feed turkeys after 16 weeks because their weight gain per pound of feed decreases, but Branigan feels it’s the only way to achieve a quality bird. Therefore, Branigan raises their turkeys 25 to 27 weeks to acquire that proper finish. By raising the turkeys longer, they develop a thin film of fat under the skin that makes them self-basting, so we don’t have to add any type of oil or butter. You just let the turkey cook in its own natural juices.
BN Ranch Heritage birds are lean, muscular and beautiful. Their meat is darker and more intense than broad breasted white turkeys