4 Things You Don’t Want to Know About Your Thanksgiving Turkey

4 Things You Don’t Want to Know About Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Count your blessings, but beware your Thanksgiving turkey.

I love Thanksgiving. It’s one of the few times that our extended family gathers to reconnect and remember the blessings God has given us. And then there’s the feast — dishes and dishes of fixings to complement the guest of honor, the beautiful golden-skinned bird in the center of the table. But before you sit down for your big meal this year, there are some things you need to know — or maybe things you don’t want to know about your Thanksgiving turkey.

1. Your Thanksgiving turkey is full of antibiotics.

The overuse of antibiotics has created drug-resistant strains of bacteria, causing previously treatable illnesses to become dangerous and even life-threatening infections. If you’re a science geek, check out the animation the U.S. Food and Drug Administration created to explain antimicrobial resistance.

But here’s the really bad news: Around eighty percent of the total antibiotics used in the U.S. go into livestock production – and the turkey industry is a major culprit for the misuse of antibiotics. Corporate turkey operations rely on antibiotics not just to cure and prevent disease, but also to help fatten foul for slaughter.

Because turkey meat can pass along resistance to your gut, it’s entirely possible that drug-resistant bacteria will make it’s way from your Thanksgiving table to your intestinal tract.

2. Your Thanksgiving turkey lived a short and pathetic life.

Four poultry corporations produce more than half of the turkeys sold in the U.S. How do they do it? Factory farming.

In a typical scenario, the poultry company signs a short-term contract with an industrial farmer and delivers chicks to the farmer’s location. Just six weeks later, the poultry company returns to pick up big, fat birds ready for the table.

Since their contracts with the poultry companies are short-term, industrial farmers face constant pressure to deliver bigger birds in shorter timeframes. So, the birds raised on these farms are genetic “frankensteins” – turkeys that could never survive in the wild.

To stay afloat, factory farmers house their birds in extremely crowded facilities and grow them so quickly that many die of heart failure or experience bone fractures before they even get to the slaughterhouse.

Grocery-store turkeys that sell for $1.50 or less a pound are products of the factory farming system. Free-range or pasture-raised turkeys are also available, but they tend to have significantly higher price tags because they cost more to raise.

3. Thanksgiving Turkey is a breeding ground for bacteria.

Turkeys make ideal breeding environments for Salmonella and other bacterial pathogens. In most cases, you can neutralize the risks these pathogens pose with proper handling and cooking techniques. But it only takes a single misstep to turn your holiday festivities into a gastrointestinal adventure.

The magic cooking temperature for killing bacteria is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Although most holiday chefs take measures to ensure turkey meat reaches 165 degrees, the biggest threat to your health is found in your birds’ gut. If you stuff your turkey, you have to make sure the stuffing also reaches 165 degrees F. Turkey cavities are hotbeds for Salmonella and a failure to properly cook the stuffing can easily result in a nasty case of Salmonella poisoning.

Many experts also warn against washing the outside of your turkey before you cook it. When you spray water on the surface of a thawed turkey, it sends bacteria into the air, potentially infecting kitchen surfaces and raising the risk of cross-contamination. Because cooking the turkey to 165 degrees will kill the bacteria anyway, there’s really no point in washing it before you cook it.

4. Grocery-store Thanksgiving turkeys are “enhanced.”

Believe it or not, turkeys aren’t the easiest beasts to cook. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily find yourself serving a dry, overcooked turkey to your Thanksgiving guests. But if you’re a turkey producer, you have a vested interest in making turkeys as easy to cook as possible. So what’s the answer? Enhanced turkeys.

Turkey producers enhance their products by injecting them with a solution of saltwater and other additives, making your Thanksgiving turkey next-to-impossible to screw up. The downside is that enhanced turkeys introduce shockingly high levels of sodium into the meat. The sodium level is even higher if you brine your bird before you pop it into the oven.

If you’re on a low-sodium diet, enhanced turkeys are an obvious concern. But a whopping nine out of 10 Americans consume too much sodium and that’s a problem because excess sodium can put you at risk for stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, kidney stones and other illnesses.

The good news: Your Thanksgiving turkey won’t contain hormones.

Having second thoughts about diving into a heaping pile of turkey this Thanksgiving? Well, here’s a piece of good news: There is zero chance the turkey that lands on your table will have received hormones – at least not directly.

Although it’s common for producers to advertise their turkeys are “hormone-free,” the label is misleading. It’s illegal for producers to use hormones in the raising of turkeys and other poultry. But turkeys can be fed animal byproducts that may contain hormones and other artificial products to stimulate growth. They just can’t be directly injected with hormones.

It’s important to be mindful about the food we eat. Often, food items we consume are alarmingly unhealthy, and have been raised in a way that is harmful to people, animals and the environment. As you gather around the table this year, thank God for your blessings. And then, maybe say a little prayer that we might all do a better job reducing food waste, and making our food supply healthier and more sustainable.


Becoming White Allies: A Call to the Rochester Christian Community

Becoming White Allies: A Call to the Rochester Christian Community

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the Anti-Racism Rally and Candlelight Vigil at Rochester’s MLK/Manhattan Square Park.

Full disclosure: The event was organized by the Caritas Community, a non-traditional church I co-pastor with my wife, Melissa. At Caritas, we serve alongside a cohort of other talented and resourceful Christians who can’t leave well enough alone and gleefully jump off metaphorical cliffs for the sake of the gospel.

So, events like this are right up our alley.

Anyway, the purpose of the rally was to bring together people of faith and concerned community residents to stand in opposition to racism, bigotry and anti-semitism. As a response to the events in Charlottesville and the president’s disturbing lack of moral leadership, it’s our hope that the event contributed to an ongoing community dialogue about racial justice in Monroe County.

My comments focused on the role of white allies in the struggle against racism, bigotry and anti-semitism in Rochester. Highlights of my comments are below:

Becoming White Allies: A Call to the Rochester Christian Community

Many of us were shaken by Charlottesville and its aftermath.

For many of us, the president’s response to Charlottesville – or maybe I should say responses (it’s so hard to keep track) – were mind-blowing.

For many of us, there is a sense that something has changed in our country.

But for others in our community, nothing has changed.

Charlottesville … the president’s lack of moral leadership … the subtle defense of hate groups – none of it has been shocking or surprising at all for people of color.

Racism and bigotry aren’t news. They aren’t a cause. They’re not a headline that gets revisited every once in a while. For many of our friends and neighbors, racism, bigotry and anti-semitism are lived realities. An everyday experience.

I won’t insult your intelligence by pretending that racism is something I know or understand. My race, my gender, my privilege mean that I will never know what it feels like to experience bigotry, hatred, deportation or worse.

But as a Christian pastor, my faith, my calling and the gospel itself mean that I can’t sit back and do nothing. Tonight, right here, right now …

This is me doing something.

This is you doing something.

This is all of us doing something.

In an interview with Alex Haley in 1965, Dr. King spoke about the inaction of the white church. He said:

The most pervasive mistake I have made was in believing that because our cause was just, we could be sure that the white ministers of the South, once their Christian consciences were challenged, would rise to our aid … I ended up, of course, chastened and disillusioned.

 The white church, I’m sorry to say. Its leadership has greatly disappointed me. (But) there cannot be deep disappointment without deep love.

Time and again in my travels, as I have seen the outward beauty of white churches, I have had to ask myself, “What kind of people worship there? Who is their God? Is their God the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and is their Savior the Savior who hung on the cross at Golgotha?

Where were their voices when a Black race took upon itself the cross of protest against man’s injustice to man? Where were their voices when defiance and hatred were called for by white men who sat in these very churches?”

So, to my white brothers and sisters in the Christian church: Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past. Attending an event like this is good start. But it’s only that – a start.

The gospel and common decency require white Christians in Rochester to do more — to serve as allies in the fight against all forms of racism and bigotry.

 What does serving as a white ally look like?

I think it starts with talking less and listening more.

President Trump needs to stop talking. But you and I don’t need to have something to say all the time, either.

Instead of offering answers and platitudes, open your heart and mind to hear – to really hear – from people whose experiences in this community are radically different than your own.

Becoming an ally also means calling out racism and bigotry whenever and wherever you see it – but especially in the places where you have influence:

In your communities

In your workplaces

In your churches

Even in your own families.

They say history is made by those who show up.

I wish we didn’t need to be here today, but we’re here.

We showed up.

Let’s keep showing up.

Tempt Me. Please. (Luke 4:1-13)

Tempt Me. Please. (Luke 4:1-13)

Lectionary This Week: February 14

In Luke 4:1-13, we find Jesus in the wilderness — vulnerable, alone and tempted. It’s a familiar passage and one that feels appropriate for the first week of Lent. But when you set aside what you think you know about the passage and look at it with fresh eyes, temptation stops feeling like a cage match between good and evil, and starts feeling like a doorway to new things.

The Passage: Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Tempt Me. Please.

From the time we were old enough to walk, we’ve been taught that temptation is something to be avoided. If we couldn’t resist the cookie jar, mom just put it on a shelf we were too short to reach. Problem solved, right?

Not exactly. Because that’s how some of us continued to deal with temptation when the stakes got more serious than pre-dinner pastries. Rather than confronting our temptations head on, we constructed our lives (sometimes in elaborate and irrational ways) to avoid temptation altogether.

In theory, it’s a great plan. But in practice? Not so much.

When we refuse to confront our temptations, we stifle our spiritual growth.

In fact, the refusal to face temptation often results in false morality, hypocrisy and a failure to take responsibility for our own shortcomings.

Take the early church, for example. In the third century, the desert fathers forbade women from entering their presence as a way to avoid sexual temptation. The result was that it reinforced a thread of misogyny and sexism that has permeated the fabric of Christianity for more than 1,700 years.

In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus goes to the wilderness not to escape temptation, but to confront it. Instead of avoiding temptation, Jesus shows us that temptation can be an opportunity to make an active choice.

Jesus shows us that temptation transforms us by forcing us to make a positive affirmation of the beliefs and commitments that define our identities, our values and our lives.

It’s important to recognize that prayer and contemplation lay the groundwork for this transformational view of temptation. Forty days in the desert. Full of the Holy Spirit. Luke 4:1-13 makes it clear that no small amount of contemplative activity went into preparing Jesus for his spiritual encounter with temptation.

But what the passage doesn’t mention is the payoff. In the next two verses (Luke 4:14-15), we see the launch of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In just two sentences, Jesus goes from temptation to teaching.

The lesson? You can’t escape temptation and that’s okay because temptation can be a good thing. By mustering the courage to face your temptations, you lay the groundwork for spiritual transformation through the positive affirmation of your identity and values — a spiritual transformation that prepares you for whatever comes next.