This Is Where Butterball Turkey Comes From

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, more than 45 million turkeys are killed for Americans to eat. And no brand kills more turkeys than Butterball. But where does the company that’s so closely associated with Thanksgiving get these turkeys? Keep reading.

Like most animals raised for food, turkeys at Butterball factory farms are put through hell from the moment they’re born until they’re violently killed.

These animals never get to know the love of their mothers or feel the sunlight on their backs or the grass beneath their feet. Instead, they are subjected to mutilations without painkillers and crammed by the thousands into dark, windowless sheds.


To maximize profits, farmers raise turkeys bred to grow so quickly they often become immobilized under their own weight. In fact, the natural life span of a turkey is 10 years, but through special breeding, turkeys reach “market size” in just several weeks. Many suffer debilitating leg and joint pain, heart attacks, and organ failure. Because of their immobility, many birds have to sit in their own waste, which causes painful sores and infections.


Once they’ve reached the desired weight, they are rounded up, crammed onto trucks, and shipped to slaughter. The trip can take days. Given no food or water and exposed to all weather conditions, many turkeys die before reaching the slaughterhouse.

Once the turkeys arrive, they are shackled upside down by their feet and have their throats cut open. Some birds are improperly shackled and miss the kill blade, and many are scalded alive in the defeathering tanks.


Butterball is a repeat offender when it comes to animal abuse. MFA investigators went undercover into Butterball factories in 2011, 2012, and 2014 and documented horrific mistreatment of turkeys each time, including workers kicking and throwing turkeys, baby birds being ground up alive in giant macerating machines, turkeys having their toes and beaks cut or burned off without painkillers, and injured birds being left to suffer and die without proper veterinary care.

In fact, our 2011 investigation uncovered abuses so egregious, it resulted in the first-ever felony animal cruelty conviction related to birds used for food production in U.S. history.


But that’s not all. An MFA investigation caught Butterball conducting the all-too-common practice of grinding up injured baby turkeys ALIVE once they were deemed unsuitable for raising as food.


Turkeys are just as sensitive and intelligent as the dogs and cats we adore at home. The senseless and horrifying abuse that occurs at Butterball factory farms flies in the face of everything Thanksgiving is about: gratitude.

This year, make the compassionate choice to leave turkey off your Thanksgiving dinner menu. Click here for a list of vegan Thanksgiving recipes.