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Higher welfare alternatives for turkeys

Higher welfare indoor systems

In higher welfare indoor systems, turkeys are reared in barns with a larger space allowance per bird. Enrichment is usually provided in the form of perches and straw bales, to encourage exercise and exploration.

These systems offer turkeys more opportunities to behave naturally and support improved air and litter quality. They reduce the risk of lameness, foot sores, and eye problems.

Global Animal Partnership and Certified Humane both require enrichments for turkeys raised indoors.

Free-range and organic systems

These systems may offer somewhat higher welfare for turkeys. Slower growth rate and access to an outdoor range means a better quality of life. Turkeys with meaningful outdoor access are able to exercise, explore and behave naturally. More space reduces stress and the need for beak trimming.

Free-range

In order for the turkeys they raise to be labeled “free-range”, producers must provide the birds with at least some outdoor access.

Global Animal Partnership’s standards require all turkeys certified at Steps 3 through 5+ of its 5-step welfare standards be given continuous outdoor access for at least three weeks, and require this access to begin by seven weeks of age. GAP prohibits cage systems at all stages, and requires that all indoor environments for turkeys at Step 2 and above contain enrichments.

All turkeys raised in accordance with the Animal Welfare Approved standards must be given continuous outdoor access beginning at four weeks of age.

Certified Humane requires that all free-range turkeys raised according to its standards be given access to the outdoors for at least eight hours per day.

Organic

As with free-range systems, turkeys certified as USDA Organic must be given at least some outdoor access. In addition, the birds must be raised without antibiotics.

Better management of slaughter

Because of their weight, turkeys need careful handling during the slaughter process. In the United States, poultry are exempt from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, making it difficult to ensure high welfare during slaughter. Turkeys should be stunned by a method that renders them insensible to pain before their throats are cut (stun-killing). Gas stunning systems, which can be more humane than conventional slaughter lines, should also be encouraged.

In seasonal slaughterhouses and on-farm, electrical head-stunning should be used before slaughter. At least two minutes should elapse before plucking.

Find out how you can help end the suffering of intensively reared turkeys.