See-Through Turkey

I’m going to talk a bit about where my Thanksgiving Dinner is coming from later today. But I was fascinated by this consideration of Turkey Dinner from Sunlight Foundation.

Turkey. What are the results of the latest federal safety inspection of the plant where your turkey met its end? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) knows, but it’s hard for ordinary consumers to get their hands on that information. While the agency posts results of bacterial sampling for different type of meat and poultry, it’s not available in a format that consumers could use to compare brands or products.

Cranberry sauce. If you serve the canned kind (my husband always insists on it)—can you believe the claims on the label? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues warning letters to companies that violate labeling laws for offenses such as false health claims (This oatmeal can cure memory loss!) or if it fails to list information about a chemical preservative.  On the FDA’s website, you can search them by company, date, download them, all good stuff. Except that last year the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) criticized the agency because it had neglected to post at least 220 warning letters and had also posted some duplicates. We don’t know what the FDA doesn’t tell us.

Stuffing. Was there ever a recall on the brand of stuffing mix you are thinking of buying? While you can sign up to receive alerts on recalls of contaminated products, whether meat (USDA) or not (FDA), there’s no central searchable database where you can look up a particular brand name and research any history of safety problems associated with it. After the scare last year involving salmonella poisoning, the FDA set up such a database; however, it’s restricted to products containing peanut butter (and later one for pistachios). It’s great to have that specific information, but while my five-year-old son thrives on a diet primarily based on peanut butter, most of us like to vary our diets.

It goes on to raise questions about pesticide and Ag subsidy transparency–click through to read the rest.

I noted last night that today is a good time to remember–and support–those food banks that help ensure that families that are struggling can enjoy a Thanksgiving Dinner, too.

It’s also a good time to reflect on how big and scary our food system has become. (Indeed, the industrialization of our food system may contribute to the rising number of Americans who struggle to get enough food.)

Where did your turkey come from?

33 replies
  1. scribe says:

    I dunno (it’s a duck, not a turkey) – I’ve had it in the fridge since last night thawing and developing a pellicle (so the glaze will adhere better) and threw the wrapper out already.

    In the meantime, Leggo my Eggo. After they get the listeria out.

  2. emptywheel says:

    I always assume that Duck (and Lamb) is cleaner than most other meats bc they’re sold in such small numbers, the production never gets big enough to poison.

    Plus, my duck and lamb come from Canada, and we know the Canadians are pure as snow.

      • emptywheel says:

        Luckily, there are no huskies in Ontario. Which is pretty much most of Canada, anyway. (I know I’m going to pay for that comment, and that’s even without and Frenchy Canucks on the site.)

        But wth? Skdadl was worried they would be bored while we stuff our face today, so why not start an inter-provincial war to keep them busy?

          • scribe says:

            I’m in! Yeeee-hawwww!

            In the meantime, I recall that the label had a happy, smiling duck reclining on a baking rack (doubling as a chaise longue) and the brand was “Quack on a Rack”

            That’s the other nice thing about ducks – because the producers are small, they haven’t gone all corporate and lost the originality and fun of labels like that. My only gripe – they skeeved me on the duck liver and gave me only one – the smallest – lobe. I was looking forward to that pate….

  3. skdadl says:

    I knew you guys would be having fun today. But I’m not bitter. *snivel*

    Don’t we have any Quebeckers here? There’s a regular at the mothership called Quebecois, non?

    Actually, what I’m plotting to buy today and start off in its marinade is an enormous brisket that I will turn into a spiced beef — like corned beef, only made with the sweeter spices — cloves and cinnamon and such, plus wine. My butcher is a real butcher, second generation (and the third is in training) in the same ancient neighbourhood house where granddad started off, with a front counter that dates from 1945. They buy as local as they can, not guaranteed organic but local matters more, I figure.

    Still, it’s a surprise to find out how many foods, not just the notorious fowl, can be carrying something. We had a scare not that long ago with avocados from Costa Rica, if you can imagine. Strawberries from anywhere. That’s one of our big problems for most of the year, that we have to import so much industrial-strength produce.

    • scribe says:

      Picking up the duck at the local butcher’s the other day, we chatted while he proceeded to take a beautiful top round of beef and turn it into some of the nicest brachiole I’ve seen in a long time. Mine has been named “best butcher” in the local magazine for years – he has a string of their certificates framed behind the counter running back into the mid 90s. And he makes his own sausage, too, for a price which is actually better than the supermarket’s regular price.

      But, I have to agree about the produce issue – around here there are none of the big produce markets where they back the tractor-trailer up and unload stuff by the pallet and sell it at reasonable prices. I wound up having to pay the supermarket $1.99 (Two f’g dollars) for one stinking leek. They were priced at $1.99 each – none of this “by the pound” business. It was the biggest leek in the store, but the fact is you can get a bunch of 3 or 4 big leeks for like $3 at the Union Square Farmer’s Market in the middle of Manhattan.

      I drew the line at $2.49 for a head of red leaf lettuce.

      • emptywheel says:

        Yeah, my butcher won best butch “in Detroit” last year–though obviously, he’s not in Detroit, but 40 miles west of there. And that’s putting him up against all the Halal butchers between here and there.

        And yes, he makes great sausage, too.

        • scribe says:

          That’s saying something b/c those halal butchers do know their stuff. When I was living in Newark (lo, some 20 years ago now) there were some halal butchers who made amazing beef sausages. Transcendent….

      • skdadl says:

        Brachiole — that’s a new one on me, but I’m looking at a groovy recipe right now, and I would like that.

        Real sausage is a joy forever, eh? My guys make several kinds, one a really wicked chorizo sausage — yes, even up here on the ice floe, we have a few alternatives to the old standards (pemmican, poutine, and pea soup).

    • druidity36 says:

      I like the Quorn roast better. Mycoprotein has a better ‘bite’ than Gluten and remanufactured soy. A little brown gravy and it goes down much the same as a real bird. OK, well not so much. But it is pretty tasty.


  4. skdadl says:

    Anyone ever had a turducken? How about a turbaconducken? Myth and legend about these creatures reaches us up here by coureur de bois …

      • skdadl says:

        Well, yes. On the one hand, it does. On the other, if you think about it, similar things were done in classic European cooking. Have you ever seen Babette’s Feast? I can imagine Babette making something like that, although with maybe smaller birds and no bacon. But the principle is sort of elegant.

        I suppose some Europeans do drop dead of heart attacks, mind.

  5. DairyMaid says:

    We’re having the 50 mile meal here in VT. Muscovy ducks from the neighbors, who also raised 75 turkeys for the local market, mashed potatoes, roasted beets and carrots w/shallots all raised by local farmers, broccoli and rasberry/blueberry pie from our own garden. I suppose the only thing from away is the flour for the bread.

  6. lynnb says:

    Turkey from local farmer in Illinois, vegetables from the CSA (potatoes, beets for chutney, squash). Make my own stuffing from homemade bread, but have to buy the celery and green pepper from the grocer because the season is over here. Pumpkin pie from pie pumpkins I cooked down a month ago. As Michael Pollin says, eat real food, less of it and mostly vegetables!

  7. stsmytherie says:

    Our turkey was born, raised (in a pasture) and butchered at Stone Barns farm about 20 minutes from here. Broad-breasted white this year. I prefer the smaller Bourbon Reds, but they sell out quickly.

    During the summer we get a CSA basket from a farm 90 minutes north of us. Great stuff, though they still haven’t figured out how to grow proper broccoli. Tomatoes and potatoes were hit hard by the blight this year. But great beets, radishes, carrots and turnips.

    This late in the year, though, we’re dependent on the markets for veggies. Whole Foods lately. Used to frequent Fairway, but the produce isn’t very local and we had lots of problems with spoilage. That’s actually a big issue for me these days: food so long in shipment that it spoils from the inside out, and you don’t know till you cut it open. Yuck.

  8. kaylaspop says:

    What do any of these inane gastronomic ramblings have to do with food banks? I don’t think which bank you withdrew money from to buy your food counts as a qualified comment.

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