Turkey is America’s most political meat. Every Thanksgiving, a roasted turkey anchors the meal at which we pay homage to the Pilgrims and give thanks for our country’s prosperity and freedom. The president pardons a bird in the Rose Garden. And Ben Franklin even compared the turkey favorably to the bald eagle in a letter to his daughter: “For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . a Bird of Courage.”
The turkey tells a story about our nation. But today, the story of turkey in America has seen independence replaced by servitude, and open markets by opaque contracts. If the Pilgrims had seen this coming when they sat down for Thanksgiving, they would have lost their appetites.
Leonard is a former national business reporter with the Associated Press, a fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of the forthcoming “The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business.”