In 1997, The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) took a turkey census. For about half a century, nearly every turkey farm in the U.S. had been raising a breed known as the Broad Breasted White. (This cost-efficient, big-breasted bird has a lifespan of only 18 weeks and can neither fly, nor reproduce without artificial insemination). So when the ALBC went looking for other, older breeds of turkey, what they found was startling: They counted only 1,300 turkeys not bred for industrial purposes. In the whole country.
When it comes to turkeys, or any kind of food, the existence of multiple, diverse varieties (i.e. biodiversity) is crucial to food security. “The analogy we like to use is a stock portfolio,” says Alison Martin, also of the ALBC. You wouldn’t want to put all your savings behind one stock, but “essentially that’s what commercial agriculture has done. In a time of global climate change and economic stress, doesn’t it make sense to have options for other production methods?”
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