Jennie-O’s Dark Secret Aug04


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Jennie-O’s Dark Secret

I haven’t always been the biggest red meat eater. It’s not that i don’t enjoy a tasty steak, i just don’t prefer it. A few years ago (well before Paleo) i was searching for meat alternatives and came across my first package of Jennie-O ground turkey. I initially thought “jackpot!” In terms of meat packaging, Jennie-O is gorgeous. They know how to lure the masses in with their pretty green logo with the pleasantly yellow font. On the packaging is an array of healthy things. There are buzzwords like “lean” and “all natural.” The nutrition value is smacked right on the front as well as mention of a “freshness dome”…interesting. You can click HERE to get a full visual of this marketing wonder.

Now that I am Paleo conscious, I am concerned with what type of food I am putting in my mouth. It’s like I have been unplugged from The Matrix (sans the weird holes in my body) and am able to see things more clearly. The oddly attractive green and yellow packaging plastered with health terms no longer blinds me. In fact the packing itself is where the seedy underbelly of the Jenie-O product begins.

If you haven’t seen the documentary Food Inc. you need to. It’s for your own good. Sometimes it better to be in the know than to turn your head. Especially when it comes to your food. Since watching that documentary and beginning the Whole30 plan, I am much more conscious of how food is produced. And that brings us back to Jennie-O and it’s deceiving product packaging.

When I was at my local grocery store the other day, i was paying close attention to the cost of meat and poultry. Now obviously the cost of free range grass fed beef is going to be leaps and bounds beyond that of your run of the mill meats. That is not what this is about. Jennie-O, while costing slightly more than your average ground turkey, has always been reasonably priced. When you walk up to the meat cooler you can see Jennie-O products from a mile away. It’s like the heavens parted and provided us with clean, pristine, healthy meat to feed our mouths with. How can meat this good for you cost so little? Everything that is good for you these days requires you to sell an organ or two just to afford it. So what makes Jennie-O so different?

It turns out, their cleverly packaged product holds the key to the truth. If you look very closely you will find this:



“Contains no artificial ingredients and is minimally processed”

BINGO! Minimally processed? What the heck is that? I had to do some real digging on the ol’ interwebs to find some information, but here’s what happens after you pull the glossy candy like coating off of Jennie-O to reveal the truth:

Minimally processed means “giant cave like warehouse stuffed with turkeys hopped up on antibiotics”

One of the very first things i dug up was this INFORGRAPHIC. Please take a look at this thing. It was actually created by the Jennie-O company and looks like something straight out of the 50′s (You know…something like Johnny’s first trip to the slaughter house.)

Turkey farmers take special care for the health and safety of their birds. They provide shelter to protect the birds from predators and bad weather. They carefully heat and cool their barns to make sure turkeys stay comfortable. A balanced ration of corn,soybeans, other grains, vitamins and minerals gives the birds good nutrition. Fresh water is available to drink at all times.

Shelter from predators? Protection from bad weather?  That all sounds pleasant, but the pictures on the infographic look like a turkey concentration camp. Is this Jennie-O’s idea of “minimally processed?”

Hormones and steroids are illegal to use on turkeys, but we remind you we don’t use them anyway. Oh don’t mind that hypodermic needle…that’s just for antibiotics.

My second golden nugget comes in two parts. I found a fact sheet provided by the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.  First Minnesota is the nation’s largest turkey producer and home to Jennie-O the world’s largest producer. Here’s one of my favorite tidbits from the sheet:

All turkeys are hormone and steroid free. No hormones are approved for use in turkeys. FDA approved antibiotics are used at times to help suppress microorganisms, prevent disease and ensure that consumers receive a healthy product.

It’s great that the turkeys are hormone and steroid free, but they are that way because it’s the law. But Jennie-O goes out of their way to remind you they don’t use them anyway, even if it is illegal. Thanks Jennie-O! The two part bonus fun pack to this comes from a website called In this article the author writes Jennie-O questioning them about why they even bother to remind the public that they don’t use steroids or hormones even when it’s illegal. The Jennie-O company response is quite hilarious. They basically side step the question and remind us their turkeys are healthy thanks to the antibiotics they inject them with. WAIT…WHAT? I don’t know about you, but i really don’t want to eat meat that has been injected with anything. But hey, you can rest easily knowing Jennie-O “minimally processes” their turkey.

Our turkeys receive a delicious diet of things turkeys don’t eat and thanks to “science” are really freaking big!

Another fact i found interesting is the turkey’s diet at Jennie-O. According to the typical diet of a wild turkey consists of “plants, including green foliage of grasses, vines, and forbs; acorns; buds; seeds; and fruits of various types.” Jennie-O’s inforgraphic shows a delectable diet of  wheat, distillers dried grain, corn, soybean meal, and pellatized feed. Something tells me these turkeys are getting shafted. With all of this genetically enahced feed to go around these turkeys must be pretty plump. The turkey growers association also states, “Today’s turkey production methods have shortened the time it takes to bring turkeys to maturity.” It’s good to know that all of this is done with as much “minimal processing” as possible.

Our product comes with a free helping of salmonella!

Just this past April, Jennie-O recalled 55,000 pounds of turkey do to a salmonella contamination. I thought the Jennie-O turkeys were happy turkeys that are fed well, protected form scary thunderstorms, and giant predators? The truth is they are all smacked up against each other ultimately peeing and crapping on each other, providing the perfect storm for salmonella.

Final Thouhgt

If you have read this far down the post without skimming, thank you. I understand that Jennie-O company is producing massive amounts of turkey for the world, so there has to be some sort of processing. What bothers me is the image Jennie-O is trying to embody. They make themselves appear to be the healthiest item on the shelf with their fancy packaging and health buzzwords, but when you get right down to it, their product is just as bad as everything else we are offered in our grocery stores. You stay classy Jennie-O. As for me? I think i need to build a chicken coop in my garage.

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