Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Set my turkeys free

My favourite commentator on farming and rural affairs, Graham Harvey, has an article on Comment is Free about the economics and health and environmental consequences of intensive poultry farming:
Until the 1960s, turkeys - like chicken - were mostly reared on mixed farms. Their feed was grown on the farm, and many were allowed to roam over pastures and corn stubbles.

Given the opportunity, turkeys will eat significant amounts of vegetation as well as the insects and worms they find in their general foraging. It's now known that poultry meat produced this way contains higher levels of B vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins such as A and D, and essential omega-3 fatty acids than the meat of birds kept in sheds.

This kind of extensive poultry-keeping has other benefits. Free-ranging birds enrich the soil with their droppings, providing fertility to grow the following crop. The enriched soil is better able to sequester carbon, taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it up in organic matter. These benefits were largely lost when we started keeping birds in sheds.
On an Overgrown Path has some photographs from Holton in Suffolk, where the outbreak of avian flu took place.

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