Turkey burgers are showing up on the menus of more restaurants these days. In fact, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. have just added them to their list of offerings, becoming the first major fast-food restaurants to do so (the two chains are owned by the same company). But all the reasons not to order a beef burger are true for turkey burgers too. If people you know might think it’s better—for animals or for health—to order a turkey burger, here are five reasons they should think again:
1. Like the cows who are raised and slaughtered for fast-food burgers, turkeys suffer horrific abuses on factory farms and in slaughterhouses—from having parts of their toes and beaks cut off to being beaten, scalded, and skinned alive. But unlike cows, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act—the only federal law designed to protect animals at slaughter—doesn’t apply to turkeys. When you add the fact that more turkeys are slaughtered to make a single turkey burger than are cows to create a beef burger, it’s clear that turkey burgers are anything but less cruel.
2. As with other ground meat products, turkey burgers allow the industry to wring more bucks from abused animals. After all, injuries and diseases that might prevent a carcass from being sold whole aren’t as apparent when the flesh is chopped up and mashed together.
3. Turkey burgers are hardly health food. Although ground turkey may be somewhat lower in fat and calories than beef, it’s also lower in essential vitamins and minerals, while having higher levels of sodium and cholesterol. Add cheese, bacon, and mayo, and you’ve got a heart attack on a bun.
4. The health risks aren’t limited to fat, cholesterol, and sodium. The intensive confinement and filthy conditions on factory farms are ideal breeding grounds for pathogens. Turkey carcasses are often contaminated with salmonella and campylobacter, the second-leading cause of reported food-related illnesses. In fact, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors found that one out of every eight turkeys is contaminated with salmonella.
5. Turkeys are smart, social, and playful birds. They love having their feathers stroked and enjoy chirping along to music. They are naturally curious, always seeking out new sights and smells. Turkeys are also close to their families, and in nature they stay with their mothers for up to the first five months of their lives. No wonder Ben Franklin preferred turkeys to eagles as a symbol for the United States of America!
Fortunately, as The New York Times has finally noticed, the veggie burger is enjoying an even greater surge in popularity these days. As the report points out, not only are veggie burgers (particularly vegan ones) much healthier and more humane than either beef or turkey burgers, they are often especially appealing to eat as well. That’s because they can be made from such a wide variety of ingredients, lending them a range of textures and tastes that goes far beyond ground animal flesh.
So the next time your lunch buddies are tempted to order turkey burgers, tell them if they want a burger that’s delicious, healthy, and humane, to just say, “Make mine veggie!”