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article imageTipsy Turkey: Do beer-fed birds make a naturally tastier turkey?

By Alyssa Sellors     Nov 10, 2013 in Food
Move over Tofurkey and Turkducken- this Thanksgiving you may be able to try “tipsy turkey.” New Hampshire farmer Joe Moerette claims to have discovered the key to a juicy Thanksgiving turkey: beer.
Huffington Post featured an interview with Moerette where he claims to have been giving his birds beer since 1993 when one of his workers spilled a can of beer and a turkey starting drinking it up. Moerette promises a richer, stronger, more gamy flavor that is far superior to your typical supermarket turkey. The calories and carbohydrates in beer have the same effect on turkey as humans so the birds are larger but also juicier and more flavorful, claims Moerette.
While there is necessarily no proof or science behind this uniquely rich flavor, a recent article exploring the many non-conventional options for holiday turkeys notes that the “flavor of turkey is affected by three things: the breed, its food, and how it's raised.” If Moerette's turkeys are roaming around the farm and having a beer or two with dinner, one would assume they would be pretty happy birds, and therefore probably better tasting meat.
Conventionally raised turkeys are typically raised in a very confined space, given grain to eat and antibiotics to spurt their growth. Antibiotics can be transferred to humans, leading to a whole gambit of other problems such as antibiotic resistance. Beer is obviously more natural than antibiotics so maybe this is the future of enhancing the flavor of the turkey we eat, naturally. Many manufacturers already inject turkeys with saline solution or vegetable oils to enhance the flavor, so why not use beer and let the turkey have a little fun before becoming your Thanksgiving centerpiece?
Beer may be natural but is feeding beer to turkeys ethical? That all depends on who you ask. According to a poultry expert with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, “it is unlikely the birds are suffering.” Carl Majewski, field specialist in food agriculture, also agrees that the amount of beer is really not enough to have a detrimental effect on the birds. Kathi Brock, national director of Human Heartland, asserts that although the“standards from the American Human Association don't prohibit serving beer to animals.” the hops may actually be beneficial for the intestinal tract.”
Though there are multiple view points that do not point to negative side effects for the bird or consumers, animal rights group PETA is not convinced, claiming that farmers nation wide are using “questionable practices to keep costs down or to alter the taste of animals' flesh because their priority is profit, not the animal's welfare.” PETA may be in the minority on this one as the appeal of “tipsy turkey" makes it debut this Thanksgiving.
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