Holiday feasts are one of the highlights of the year, and sharing foods with our loved ones is a great way to show them how much we care. But for many of us, the same foods appear on the table every year, and there’s nothing new or particularly exciting. The choices may even seem a little tired. And with the increasing attention focusing on where our food comes from, many of us might pick at another dry turkey and wonder what kind of life the bird might’ve had.
Popular and Versatile
Fortunately, delicious and humane holiday meals are coming into their own. Even The Wall Street Journal
has highlighted the versatility and variety of meatless Thanksgiving foods, which are more popular than ever. This year is the perfect time to begin a new culinary tradition—whether for animals, health, or the environment—by trying a meatless meal with your family.
A couple of the best-known ready-to-cook roasts are Field Roast and Tofurky—the latter even comes complete with stuffing and gravy. Both satisfying proteins are hearty centerpieces, surrounded with favorite side dishes like mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, and vegetables.
Meatless roasts are just one of the ways families are choosing to celebrate the season. Rice- or apple-stuffed butternut squash, savory casseroles, and countless other options abound that are easy to prepare and highlight the flavors of the season.
Not only are these foods mouth-watering, they provide a heart-healthy and animal-friendly basis for any gathering. This protects our health and alleviates the abuses commonplace on turkey factory farms.
Every year, these often-massive, industrialized facilities produce tens of millions of turkeys, who have very different lives from their wild cousins. Wild turkeys can live up to 12 years. They spend their days foraging in groups and roosting in trees. Wild turkey mothers diligently teach their young survival skills, and turkey brothers stay together for life.
But a factory-farmed turkey is anything but a free bird, existing only about five months inside sheds where they are crammed together beak-to-beak. Selective breeding and growth-promoting drugs make these birds gain weight so fast, they can suffer crippling leg problems. Since they’ve been bred to have enormous amounts of breast tissue, they can’t mate naturally, meaning that nearly all commercially-raised turkeys are the product of artificial insemination. Producers often cut off parts of their toes and beaks without painkiller. After an often-painful slaughter, they arrive on our tables.
Carve Out a New Tradition
The good news is that whether you enjoy prepared meatless turkey alternatives or homemade recipes, vegetarian fare can be the foundation of a memorable holiday meal—and help create a more humane world. Even if you're not yet ready to replace all your meat products this holiday, you can still help farm animals by reducing your consumption of animal products or choosing products from animals raised in the highest welfare conditions possible.
Even noted food writers and chefs—Mark Bittman of The New York Times, Ruth Riechl of Gourmet, Wolfgang Puck, and more—are celebrating vegetarian foods’ tantalizing appeal and culinary versatility. Whether simply adapting a time-honored heirloom recipe, sharing a ready-to-cook meatless roast, or even enjoying a vegetarian dinner at a restaurant, we can usher in the holiday season with vegetarian foods. This Thanksgiving, it’s never been a better time to indulge our palate humanely.
Help Make A Difference
For more information, please visit www.HumaneSociety.org/recipes
Erin Williams is communications director for the factory farming campaign at The Humane Society of the United States and co-author of Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection